VANCOUVER – A miserable season for the Vancouver Canucks ended with a scary incident on Sunday night.
Daniel Sedin scored twice before leaving the game on a stretcher following a hit from behind as the Canucks wrapped up a disastrous 2013-’14 campaign with a 5-1 victory over the Calgary Flames.
The result of a game that meant very little was overshadowed by the nasty check late in the second period that saw Sedin stay down after being driven into the boards by Calgary’s Paul Byron.
The Canucks confirmed that Sedin, who was moving his fingers immediately after the hit, was taken to hospital as a precaution and later released.
“You are concerned about the guy. I’m glad he’s OK,” said Canucks head coach John Tortorella. “When I saw him first go down, it scared me a little bit. That’s the most important thing, it’s not about the damn game, it’s about the kid, but we’ve gotten really good reports.
“This game means nothing. We’re done.”
Henrik Sedin said he knew something was wrong as soon as his twin brother went down.
“He’s not a guy that stays down or acts hurt,” said the Canucks captain. “Especially when you see him lay still and he’s just moving his fingers—then I know he’s concerned so that was when I started feeling worried.”
Byron, who was assessed a five-minute penalty for boarding and a game misconduct, said there was no intent to injure on his part.
“I just saw the puck in the corner. I was trying to finish my check. I saw the replay again. I didn’t think it was a dirty hit,” said Byron, who had just 12 minutes in penalties coming into Sunday. “It wasn’t my intention. I just hope he’s OK. You never want to see that happen to a guy on the ice.
“The game is so fast. You have split seconds to make decisions. When you see a guy laying on the ice it’s really scary. You never want to see that.”
Flames head coach Bob Hartley appeared agitated at the call, something that incensed Tortorella, who struggled to bite his tongue when speaking to the media afterwards.
“The year that we’ve had, and I am the head coach of this team, you tuck your tail between your legs and you leave,” said Tortorella. “It’s been a rough year, but it’s embarrassing to coach against the guy across from me tonight. Some of the things that went on when Danny was hurt, it’s embarrassing.”
Tortorella has had a running feud with Hartley for years and it boiled over in January when Tortorella tried to get into the Flames’ locker-room following a line brawl. Tortorella was subsequently suspended 15 days for that incident.
“I probably have no right to say anything because of the year I have had but that stuff pisses me off. I probably shouldn’t say anything,” said Tortorella. “It just pisses me off. I just don’t like the disrespect with players. It aggravates me.
“I am not going to go any further. I don’t like the way he does business. I don’t like him, and eventually I guess why I am talking about it in this way is because I need to protect my players and a lot of people don’t understand that, so I’ll just leave it at that. I don’t know why I opened it up.”
For his part, Hartley had no problem with Byron’s hit.
“In the last game of the season you don’t want anyone injured,” said Hartley. “We all feel it was a hockey play that you see maybe 10 or 15 times a game. Whether he fell awkward in the boards or something like this. Hopefully he is all right.”
As for the game itself, Frank Corrado—with his first in the NHL—Ryan Kesler and Yannick Weber also scored for Vancouver (36-35-11), while Jacob Markstrom made 21 saves for his first victory with the Canucks.
Henrik Sedin added two assists for Vancouver, which goes into the off-season with more than a few question marks after missing the playoffs for the first time in six years.
“It’s better than getting blown out at home,” said Kesler. “I thought we played hard for the guys in the room and finished on a high note.”
Johnny Gaudreau scored in his first NHL game and Karri Ramo allowed four goals on 20 shots for a Calgary (35-40-7) team that missed the post-season for a fifth straight spring. Joey MacDonald replaced Ramo with the score 4-0 late in the second and stopped 2 of 3 shots the rest of the way.
Vancouver scored twice in the first period and stretched its lead to 3-0 at 9:12 of the second when Corrado’s shot from the top of the faceoff circle through traffic found its way past Ramo.
“The game was an emotional roller coaster,” said the rookie defenceman. “It’s a dream come true and a nice weight lifted off my shoulders.”
Kesler then ripped his 25th of the season at 13:49 to make it 4-0 and end Ramo’s night before Gaudreau scored his first in the NHL at 15:22.
The 20-year-old Gaudreau won the Hobey Baker award earlier this week as the top player in U.S. college hockey after the native of Salem, N.J., recorded 35 goals and 42 assists in 39 games this season with Boston College.
“It was good experience to have before next season before I come back to training camp,” said Gaudreau. “It was fun a experience and will help me.”
After Sedin was taken off the ice in front of the hushed Rogers Arena crowd, Weber beat MacDonald on the ensuing power play to make it 5-1 at 18:55, with rookie forward Michael Zalewski picking up an assist for his first point in the NHL.
Markstrom, who came over as part of the Roberto Luongo trade with the Florida Panthers last month, made a nice save on a Sean Monahan breakaway early in the third on what was a relatively quiet night.
The summer should be interesting in Calgary and Vancouver with both teams needing new general managers after the Flames fired Jay Feaster in December and the Canucks axed Mike Gillis last week.
Calgary has not made the playoffs since 2008-’09 but came into this season with a young roster and zero expectations. The club got off to a rough start, but played much better in the New Year, a surge that coincided with the line brawl against Vancouver.
The Canucks, meanwhile, were in a playoff spot at Christmas but stumbled badly for a 20-game stretch midway through the season because of injuries and an inability to adapt to Tortorella’s system. Whether or not the embattled coach remains behind the bench is likely to be one of the key decisions for newly minted president of hockey operations Trevor Linden.
With playoff weather outside as temperatures reached 15 C in Vancouver on Sunday, there was more of a pre-season atmosphere with both teams playing for pride and little else.
The Canucks gave up two separate 2-on-1 breaks to the Flames’ fourth line early in the first period but survived that scare to score the opening goal at 7:14 when David Booth, while falling to the ice, swatted at a rebound in front that bounced in off Daniel Sedin.
Vancouver then doubled its lead at 13:57 on the power play when Daniel Sedin chipped home his 16th of the campaign for his first two-goal game of the season and first since Feb. 24, 2013—a span of 101 games.
There’s no doubt that some of the Canucks’ struggles this season is directly related to health, with both of the Sedins missing long stretches due to injury.
“I think the last couple games we both felt really good moving the puck again, making plays,” said Henrik Sedin. “It’s frustrating. It’s a weird feeling when you know you have it, but for long periods of time it hasn’t been there.
“It’s sad it’s come to this and here we are out of the playoffs. It’s not fun.”
Notes: The Canucks inducted former head coach and general manager Pat Quinn into the Ring of Honour high above the ice surface prior to the game. Quinn led the Canucks’ team that lost in Game 7 of the 1994 Stanley Cup final to the New York Rangers. … Canucks players are scheduled to meet the media on Monday morning at Rogers Arena.