Cue the Nervous Nellies

By HOWARD BERGER

VANCOUVER (Apr. 12) – Though the weather is expected to improve here today, the mood around this city is bound to be dark and dreary in the wake of last night’s hockey game at Rogers Arena. Fans of the Vancouver Canucks hardly ever require tangible misfortune to start agonizing; even a final push in the regular season that earned the club first place in the overall NHL standings – and the Presidents’ Trophy – sparked little more than anxiety.

We can therefore assume the lurid contemplation of local denizens after the Los Angeles Kings earned a late victory in the opener of their best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinal with the Canucks. It was nearing 1:15 a.m. back east when Dustin Penner pounced on a rebound off the bruised foot of line-mate Jeff Carter and swiped it past Roberto Luongo to break a 2-2 tie at 16:46 of the third period.

When Kings’ captain Dustin Brown added an empty-net goal with 18 seconds remaining, it was so deathly-quiet in the arena  you could have heard a feather hit the ice.

REFEREE PAUL DEVORSKI TRIED TO LIMIT EMOTIONS EVEN BEFORE THE OPENING FACE-OFF – SKATING TOWARD MAX LAPIERRE AND DWIGHT KING WITH AN EARLY WARNING.

Count on a whole lot of bitching and moaning on local talk-radio today over referees Paul Devorski and Dan O’Rourke, who steadily marched Vancouver skaters to the penalty box in the opener. Grounded hockey fans, however, will recognize that the Canucks played an undisciplined game – physically and mentally – the latter deficit unfolding spectacularly when Chris Higgins and Alex Edler were penalized 62 seconds apart in the first period for delay-of-game, likely establishing a league record for teammates alternately shooting the puck over the glass. Even more dim-witted was forward Byron Bitz, who got kicked out in the middle frame for steamrolling Kyle Clifford of the Kings into the boards from behind – earning a five-minute major and game misconduct. Willie Mitchell scored L.A.’s second powerplay goal of the evening before the penalty expired.

So, the Canucks have to go back to the drawing board after relinquishing home-ice advantage in this series. The Kings accomplished their mandatory task – winning at least one game at Rogers Arena – by out-hustling and out-thinking the defending Conference champions. The 48 hours between Games 1 and 2 will probably feel like 48 weeks for the Nervous Nellies here in Vancouver. Canucks and Kings square off again on Friday.

Now, my photo-review of the series opener:

AN ICE-SCULPTURE OF THE CANUCKS LOGO (ABOVE) AND A COUPLE OF EX-MAPLE LEAF EMPLOYEES (BELOW) WERE IN THE ROGERS ARENA PRESS BOX: NICK BEVERLEY (LEFT) AND JOHN FERGUSON SCOUTING THE GAME FOR NASHVILLE AND SAN JOSE, RESPECTIVELY.  

WHITE TOWELS ADORNED THE BACK OF EACH SEAT IN THE ARENA (ABOVE) PRIOR TO THE DOORS OPENING JUST AFTER 6 P.M.

THE CANUCKS PUT ON A TERRIFIC LASER AND ICE-PROJECTION DISPLAY PRIOR TO THE SINGING OF THE NATIONAL ANTHEMS (ABOVE), AFTER WHICH KINGS’ GOALIE JONATHAN QUICK SPENT A PRIVATE MOMENT FACING HIS NET. 

BOTH GOALIES HAD TO BE SHARP EARLY – ROBERTO LUONGO SNARING A LABELED SHOT (ABOVE) WHILE QUICK WAS NEARLY BOWLED OVER BY FORWARD RYAN KESLER (BELOW). 

ALEX BURROWS OPENED THE SCORING FOR VANCOUVER AT 4:17 OF THE FIRST PERIOD.

DUSTIN BROWN – THE KINGS’ PLUCKY CAPTAIN – WAS MAKING LIFE MISERABLE FOR LUONGO (ABOVE) UNTIL DAN HAMHUIS DROVE HIM FACE-FIRST INTO THE ICE. PLAYERS EXCHANGED GREETINGS (BELOW) AFTER ANOTHER SCRAMBLE AROUND THE VANCOUVER NET.

THE CANUCKS PARADE TO THE PENALTY BOX SPUN INTO OVERDRIVE IN THE LATTER HALF OF THE OPENING PERIOD WHEN KESLER, HIGGINS, EDLER AND SAMI SALO WENT OFF – CONSECUTIVELY – IN A 5:09 SPAN.

JEFF CARTER (ABOVE) SIGNALS GAME-TYING GOAL BY TEAMMATE MIKE RICHARDS (OUT OF PICTURE) – ON THE POWERPLAY – AT 13:31 OF THE FIRST PERIOD… THE TEAMS ENDING THE OPENING FRAME DEADLOCKED, 1-1.

A SCUFFLE EARLY IN THE SECOND PERIOD (ABOVE) YIELDED AN UNSPORTSMANLIKE-CONDUCT PENALTY TO JARRET STOLL OF THE KINGS, WHO WAS PROMPTLY HECKLED (BELOW) BY THE FAMED “GREEN MEN” OF ROGERS ARENA.

THOUGH COMING OFF ANOTHER INJURY-PLAGUED SEASON, CARTER WAS A FORCE IN FRONT OF LUONGO (ABOVE) THROUGHOUT MUCH OF THE SERIES OPENER.

AMONG THE GAME’S SEMINAL MOMENTS WAS A DUMB MISTAKE BY THE CANUCKS’ BYRON BITZ, WHO RAMMED KYLE CLIFFORD OF L.A. INTO THE CORNER BOARDS FROM BEHIND (ABOVE), EARNING A FIVE-MINUTE MAJOR PENALTY AND GAME MISCONDUCT AT 12:12 OF THE SECOND PERIOD. DUSTIN BROWN LOOKED ON INCREDULOUSLY (BELOW) AS VANCOUVER CAPTAIN HENRIK SEDIN ARGUED THE CALL WITH REFEREE O’ROURKE.

THE CANUCKS AND LUONGO DID AN EXCELLENT JOB KILLING OFF MOST OF THE FIVE-MINUTE INFRACTION (ABOVE) BUT WILLIE MITCHELL FINALLY BROKE THROUGH FOR THE VISITORS WITH 40 SECONDS LEFT IN THE MAJOR PENALTY (BELOW).

THE KINGS SWARMED AROUND LUONGO AFTER MITCHELL’S TALLY (ABOVE) AND THE VETERAN GOALTENDER WAS HAPPY TO REFRESH DURING A TV BREAK.  

YET ANOTHER “MEETING” OCCURRED LATE IN THE MIDDLE FRAME (ABOVE), JUST BEFORE EDLER TIED THE MATCH WITH A SURPRISE GOAL IN THE DYING SECONDS (BELOW).

PROOF (ABOVE) THAT A PICTURE CAN INDEED BE WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS: DAN O’ROURKE APPEARS TO BE TEASING RYAN KESLER AND MIKE RICHARDS BEFORE DROPPING THE PUCK TO BEGIN THE THIRD PERIOD.

LUONGO AND QUICK BOTH MADE DIFFICULT STOPS (ABOVE) AND IT APPEARED AS IF THE SERIES OPENER WOULD REQUIRE OVERTIME. BUT…

RICHARDS STUNNED THE CROWD BY BREAKING THE TIE WITH 3:14 LEFT IN REGULATION; HE WAS MOBBED BY TEAMMATES (ABOVE) AND THE KINGS BENCH ERUPTED (BELOW).

LUONGO RACED TO THE BENCH (ABOVE) FOR AN EXTRA ATTACKER, BUT DUSTIN BROWN CLINCHED THE VICTORY WITH AN EMPTY-NET GOAL AND JONATHAN QUICK RETRIEVED THE PUCK BEHIND HIS NET (BELOW) AT THE FINAL BUZZER.

THE KINGS CELEBRATED THEIR STARTLING TRIUMPH (ABOVE) WHILE DESPONDENT VANCOUVER FANS FILED OUT OF THE ARENA.

GIVEN THE OVERZEALOUS NATURE OF SOME PEOPLE IN THIS CITY, THERE IS ALWAYS A LARGE POLICE PRESENCE IN THE VICINITY OF ROGERS ARENA AFTER CANUCK GAMES.

IT WAS AWFULLY QUIET IN THE DOWNTOWN CORE AFTER THE GAME – ILLUMINATED B.C. PLACE STADIUM (ABOVE-LEFT) IS DIRECTLY ACROSS FROM THE ARENA. EVEN THE HOTTEST NIGHT SPOT IN TOWN (ABOVE-RIGHT) WAS RELATIVELY QUIET, AS THE HARBOUR CENTER TOWER REACHED INTO A MISTY SKY (BELOW).

NIGHT-TIME VIEWS (ABOVE AND BELOW) OF THE OLYMPIC CAULDRON, FROM WHICH A FLAME BURNT OVER 15 DAYS DURING THE 2010 WINTER GAMES HERE IN VANCOUVER.

 

Email: howardLberger@gmail.com

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