It wasn’t supposed to end like this.
Saturday night was Markus Naslund night in Vancouver, as the Canucks welcomed Mattias Ohlund and the Tampa Bay Lightning into Rogers Arena for a world-class retirement ceremony and raising of Naslund’s number 19 jersey and – oh yeah – a hockey game.
The thing was so well-orchestrated it was as if the Lightning were expected to take heed and pay homage to the Canucks all-time leading scorer and long-serving captain.
But it was the Canucks players who seemed to get themselves caught up in the festivities as they were outshot 14-7 in the first period and had to come back from a two-goal deficit – twice – only to lose 5-4 in OT on a Steven Stamkos laser beam even Markus himself would be proud of.
Canucks Head Coach Alain Vigneault admitted his team came out slow to start the game, but wasn’t blaming the lengthy – and emotional – pre-game ceremony in which the Canuck players took part.
“No… No, no, no. It was a real first-class ceremony – we had a good warm-up before and we just didn’t manage the puck well in the first 25 minutes of the game.” Vigneault said. “After that we started managing the puck better and we got better as the game went on.”
The Canucks did get their wits about them and gave up only ten shots over the next two periods, but back-up goalie Cory Schneider felt the wrath of Stamkos and Co. and let four behind him. It was the first time this season that Schneider (3-1-1) has looked beatable between the pipes.
“It was a weird game,” Schneider said. “They got a lot of shots in the first and I felt pretty good but I had a tough start to the second and from there on out they didn’t get many opportunities,” he said.
Schneider made several key saves early in the first just to keep his team in the game. Vancouver only seemed to wake up out of their ceremony-induced haze once they realized their rookie-goalie couldn’t hold up the rafters all on his own – especially with the weight of a third Vancouver sweater being added up there.
Naslund’s number 19 now hangs beside Trevor Linden’s number 16 and Stan Smyl’s number 12.
The Vancouver Canucks (15-8-4) will travel to Edmonton to face the Oilers (11-12-5) for a Sunday night match-up of Northwest Divisional foes.