Fans showed up to Rogers Arena expecting a hockey game between the Canucks and Flames, but what they got for large stretches was a good old fashioned melee as Vancouver won 3-2 in a fight-filled shootout.
It was arguably one of the wildest first periods in Vancouver Canucks franchise history. A line brawl broke out right off the opening faceoff, with the quintet of Kellan Lain, Dale Weise, Tom Sestito, Kevin Bieksa, and Jason Garrison squaring off against Kevin Westgarth, Blair Jones, Brian McGrattan, Ladislav Smid, and Chris Butler. All four Canucks with the exception of Sestito were banned for the night, leaving Vancouver with ten forwards and four defencemen.
“I see the starting lineup and I know the guy across the bench,” said John Tortorella of Flames ehad coach Bob Hartley. “It’s easy for people to say ‘Oh put the Sedins out there and it’s deflated’, but I can’t put our players at risk that way with the lineup he had. I am not going to put those types of players at risk. I’m not proud of it, I’ve apologized to every one of the players involved in it.”
It was just the beginning of the rough stuff, however, with Alex Burrows and Zack Kassian picking up a combined 18 minutes in penalties to end the period as the two exchanged physical barbs with Flames captain Mark Giordano, Lance Bouwma, and Shane O’Brien. The Flames finished the opening twenty minutes with 93 penalty minutes, while the Canucks accrued 85.
But in perhaps the wildest turn of events following the buzzer, a livid John Tortorella tried to force his way into the Flames dressing room, angry with Calgary head coach Bob Hartley for icing a starting lineup of enforcers against his Vancouver lineup. Astonishingly, Tortorella was not ejected from the game and started the second period on the Canucks bench.
“We were walking back, and suddenly I lift my head and here he was… I just don’t understand,” said Hartley of Tortorella’s actions. “I got out of there; I don’t need to get suspended or fined. There’s nothing to settle there. I just don’t understand what went on.”
With Ryan Kesler serving a holding penalty early in the second period, the Flames broke the ice on the scoreboard off the ensuing faceoff with Giordano’s shot from the slot beating Roberto Luongo, whose return to the Canucks net was lost in the bevy of fights.
Kesler made amends two minutes later as he took a pass in close from Kassian to tip the puck and put it through the wickets of Flames netminder Karri Ramo, leaving the two teams deadlocked at one entering the third period.
Henrik Sedin, who has been battling some type of injury for some time, was not on the Vancouver bench to begin the third period, leaving the Canucks with nine forwards to end the night.
Just as they did in the second period, Calgary struck quickly in the third with Matt Stajan roofing a backhander past the blocker of Luongo to give the Flames a 2-1 advantage four minutes in.
Vancouver settled into desperation mode after that, searching for another goal to tie the game. But with limited personnel available, the Canucks trotted out lines featuring Tom Sestito and Zack Kassian, and pairings with Yannick Weber and Dan Hamhuis; far from ideal scoring units.
The Canucks ice cold powerplay finally came through in the clutch with eight minutes to go. With Giordano sitting in the sin bin, Vancouver won the faceoff and a pass to the left point to Yannick Weber resulted in a one timer beating Ramo top corner, tying the game at two.
Neither team could decide the game in the late stages or overtime, prompting a shootout, where Yannick Weber and Chris Higgins scored in the skills contest to pickup the win.
GAME NOTES: The Canucks previously had a practice scheduled for tomorrow but canceled it prior to puck drop… They will have tomorrow off before rolling into Edmonton on Tuesday … Hamhuis and Tanev were the lone Canucks to top 30 minutes, with Hamhuis’ 36:12 a career high, while Giordano, Dennis Wideman, and T.J. Brodie also played plus-30 … Vancouver’s powerplay went 1-for-3 while Calgary finished 1-for-4.