VANCOUVER, B.C. – Steve Bernier ended his scoring drought at the right time Friday night.
The Canuck winger’s goal midway through the third period gave the Vancouver Canucks a 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning before the 245th straight sellout crowd of 18,630 at General Motors Place.
“I didn’t even know that it was me that scored,” said Bernier, who had gone eight games without a goal. “To be honest with you, I thought it was Ryan Johnson that scored. I was just happy that I (saw) the puck in and we had a chance to get the two points.”
Bernier’s wraparound attempt caromed off Tampa defenceman David Keci’s skate and through goaltender Karri Ramo’s legs at 9:26 of the third while Canuck centre Johnson was skating in front of the net.
“I saw (Bernier) coming (behind) the net there and . . . I had the save but the puck went wide,” said Ramo. “I was trying to search for it but I just saw a black thing going between my legs.
“It was just a fluke but that’s the way it goes.”
Vancouver improved to 31-22-8 and claimed sole possession of fifth place in the NHL’s tight Western Conference. The Canucks posted their fifth win in six games. They got back on the winning track after losing 3-0 on Tuesday in Montreal.
Alex Edler also scored for the Canucks. First overall 2008 draft choice Steven Stamkos, with his sixth goal in eight games, tallied for Tampa.
“We didn’t give them many chances but they played a good game tonight, kept it simple and were rewarded at the end,” said Stamkos.
The Lightning (20-30-12) suffered its sixth loss in the last seven games and seventh straight on the road. The Bolts remained winless in nine visits to Vancouver since entering the NHL in 1992-93.
The Canucks outshot the Lightning 25-21 while going one-for-five on the power play. Tampa was blanked on its lone man-advantage opportunity. Vancouver led 1-0 after the first period and the score was tied 1-1 after the second.
“We came ready to play and battled them hard,” said Tampa winger Mark Recchi.
“They’re playing for the playoffs and we’re playing for pride right now and I think the guys did a heck of a job. But that’s the way it’s gone all year for us.”
The game featured several great saves and strange plays. Referee Don VanMassenhoven waved off an apparent Tampa goal in the second period after Recchi pushed Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo’s catching glove towards the net while he held the puck.
Moments later, Stamkos created a 1-1 tie. He poked home the puck after Martin St. Louis dug the disc out from Luongo as he tried to cover it and then sent it across the crease. There was a delay after the goal as officials also reviewed the video of Recchi’s scoring attempt, but the replay showed the puck did not cross the line.
Ramo, who has become the nominal No. 1 while starter Mike Smith (concussion) and backup Olaf Kolzig (upper body), remain out with injuries, then shut the door until Bernier’s heroics.
“(Ramo) played really well,” said Tampa coach Rick Tocchet. “I think both goalies were the stars of the game.”
Tocchet praised Canuck centre Ryan Kesler for closing his hand over the puck and taking a delay-of-game penalty as the Lightning scrambled for the equalizer around the Canuck net in the game’s dying seconds.
But Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault wasn’t exactly singing praise for his club following its first home game after a four-game road trip.
“Sometimes you’ve gotta keep plugging away, and we plugged away enough to win the game,” said Vigneault.
Notes: Vancouver claimed defenceman Ossi Vaananen on waivers Friday from the Philadelphia Flyers . . . Linesman Brad Lazarowich worked his 1,500th NHL game. He was honoured in a pre-game ceremony Tampa defenceman Lukas Krajicek, an ex-Canuck sat out with a hip injury . . . Winger Darcy Hordichuk returned to the Canuck lineup after missing three games to be with his wife Lisa as she gave birth to their son . . . Vancouver backup goaltender Jason LaBarbera also became a first-time father this week.