Forward Alex Burrows returned at just the right time for the Vancouver Canucks.
When the Montreal Canadiens visit Vancouver, the energy around Rogers Arena is at an all-time high. It was no different on Oct. 30 as the Canucks defeated the Canadiens 3-2 in overtime.
“It was fun,” said Burrows, who is from Pincourt, Que.“There was a lot of energy in the building.
The Montreal (fans) were great and they were battling with our fans. I thought the pace of the game was really good. They’re a quick team and a very good team, too. We stuck with our game plan, we made a lot of plays, and I’m glad to came out on top.”
Sure, the Canucks got the victory, but it didn’t come without some controversy.
You see, it was scoreless in the second period until Canadiens’ defenceman Alexei Emelin turned the puck over to Vancouver forward Nick Bonino, which eventually led to the Canucks scoring at 8:29.
However, right after Emelin gave away the puck, Burrows hit him, and Emelin was slow to get up.
There wasn’t a penalty on the play, and Canadiens’ head coach Michel Therrien was furious.
“Well, I was trying to finish my check,” Burrows explained. “My intent was not to hurt him. Obviously, you never want to hurt someone and I’m glad that he came back. He looked alright in the third, so I’m really happy that he was back and that he seemed alright.”
Emelin was able to return to the game. But, even then, Burrows’ hit begged the question: Was it worthy of a suspension?
“I saw (the hit) afterward,” Burrows said. “I don’t know, the angle wasn’t great. I saw it quickly. Just as I said, I was trying to finish a check on a good player. He came back so I’m glad he’s alright.
“I’m not going to speculate on what people are going to say about it. For me, my intention was not to hurt him. I was just trying to finish my hit, and he seemed alright. I’m glad he’s fine.”
It was apparent on video replay that the hit was late.
“It’s a fine line,” Burrows said. “Sometimes you can slow it down to 32 frames per second and it looks late. But when you are playing at a real game speed, for me, on the play, I was just trying to finish a check. I thought the timing was alright.”
Let’s not forget, though, that despite his reputation of playing a hard-nosed games and as a player who likes to get under the skins of the opposition, Burrows never had been suspended.
The next day, it was revealed that that doesn’t matter. The NHL’s department of player safety, led by Stephane Quintal, announced that Burrows had been given a three-game suspension.
“There’s not much we can do about it,” Canucks’ general manager Jim Benning said. “We respect the league’s decision. Our focus is going to remain the same and that’s to keep working hard and competing hard to win hockey games.”
Vancouver was 2-1-0-0 without Burrows.
The Canucks defeated the host Colorado Avalanche 5-2 on Tuesday in the last game of Burrows’ suspension and then left Wednesday for San Jose where they were scheduled to visit the Sharks at the SAP Center on Thursday.
“First of all, I’m really excited to get back at it,” Burrows said. “Joining the boys tomorrow in San Jose should be fun, especially after how they played last night (against the Avalanche). They battled hard, and stuck with the game plan and stayed focused and found a way to win. I’m looking forward to joining that.
“I never try to target anyone’s head on the ice. I respect the league’s decision. It was tough. I try to play with passion and bring energy and play on that fine line. But sometimes, I just, maybe, went over that line that time and I’m glad he’s alright. My intentions were never to hurt him, but it’s a fast game out there. Sometimes, in split seconds, guys moves or you stop. (Unfortunate) things are going to happen, but I’m glad he’s alright.”
The suspension is history.
There were more important things on which to focus.
After all, Vancouver only had two victories against California teams last season.
So, it was a chance for the Canucks to to redeem themselves.
Fortunately for Vancouver, Burrows has had success when visiting the Sharks in his career.
“In San Jose, I like that building,” Burrows said. “I find I play some of my best hockey in that building personally.”
Willie Desjardins, the Canucks’ head coach, knows what Burrows can add to the lineup, too.
“It’ll be good to have him back,” Desjardins said prior to the game.
“We missed him when he was gone, for sure. Having him back in the lineup should give us some life. We’ll need it, because this is a tough rink to play in.”
Burrows didn’t just give the team some life, but also contributed his an assist on a goal from Bonino to put the Canucks up 3-2 at 17:20. That would hold up to be the final score.
They got the victory, but they may have not deserved it.
“I didn’t think it was our best,” Desjardins said. “The first two (periods) weren’t too good, so it was easier to be better in the third, I think. Tonight, we were lucky. Our goaltender played real well tonight. “That’s not a game we deserved to win tonight and we’re lucky to get it.”
NOTES: Canucks G Ryan Miller made 34 saves. . . . Vancouver F Zack Kassian (lower body) didn’t play. . . . Canucks F Bo Horvat played in his second NHL game. . . . Sharks’ F Joe Thornton scored during the dying moments of the game, but time had run out. . . . Canucks’ F Radim Vrbata left the game in the second period, but returned . . . The Canucks visit the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.
(Dickson Liong is Taking Note’s Vancouver correspondent. Follow him on Twitter at @DLLiong.)