Canucks blanked by Oilers 2-0 as late-season freefall continues

 

Just lose, baby?: The Canucks are not trying to tank, but with this youthful lineup, they can’t count on winning much

 
 
 
 
Vancouver Canucks’ Brendan Gaunce (50) is stopped by Edmonton Oilers’ goalie Cam Talbot (33) as Darnell Nurse (25) defends during first period NHL action in Edmonton on Friday, March 18, 2016.
 
 

Vancouver Canucks’ Brendan Gaunce (50) is stopped by Edmonton Oilers’ goalie Cam Talbot (33) as Darnell Nurse (25) defends during first period NHL action in Edmonton on Friday, March 18, 2016.

Photograph by: JASON FRANSON, THE CANADIAN PRESS

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EDMONTON — None of their players want to win it, but the Vancouver Canucks are in a race to the Finnish.

Dropping like a meteor in the National Hockey League, the Canucks lost 2-0 Friday to the Edmonton Oilers to inch closer to bottom of the standings and the top of the draft order.

The win allowed the Oilers to close within a point of the Canucks. With the Buffalo Sabres also winning Friday and the Calgary Flames collecting a point, Vancouver is ahead of only four teams: the Oilers, Columbus Blue Jackets (two points behind Vancouver), Winnipeg Jets (three points) and Toronto Maple Leafs (seven).

The Leafs look uncatchable in the chase for top prospect Auston Matthews. But with only three wins in 10 games, the Canucks have fallen almost to the bottom three which, draft lottery pending, would allow them to select one of the Finnish power forwards projected to become franchise players, Patrik Laine or Jesse Puljujarvi.

“I don’t think about that and I don’t think my teammates do, either,” veteran Canuck Alex Burrows said. “We’re 20 guys who are going to battle together and try to win games. The goalies want to stop the puck and everyone wants to make good plays. There’s so much going on right now, we have to focus on the right things.

“We battled hard tonight. We worked hard and did some good things, but that wasn’t enough. We’ve got 12 or 13 games left and I haven’t seen anyone give up or throw in the towel.”

Draftists in Vancouver may have been rejoicing Friday, but Canuck players were not.

They outshot the Oilers 40-25 and referee Francis Charron controversially disallowed a second-period goal by rookie Brendan Gaunce that would have made it 1-0 for the Canucks.

Already missing eight players, the Canucks also lost veteran winger Radim Vrbata in the third period to an apparent knee injury.

These are desperate days for the team — unseen in years. The disastrous John Tortorella season two years ago was an anomaly. This is real. The Canucks have seven rookies in their lineup. Four of them on Friday had a combined 15 games of NHL experience. They can’t win many more games with this lineup.

Vancouver captain Henrik Sedin knows some fans are now cheering against the Canucks, who are 12 points out of a playoff spot and could have their highest draft position since Sedin and his brother Daniel went second and third in the 1999 talent lottery.

Just lose, baby?

“We’ve never listened to the fans and we’re not going to listen to those ones now,” Sedin said. “That’s up to them. We come in and we try to get better every day. That’s our mindset. Look at Edmonton; they’ve been in this spot for a lot of years. You can’t just pick guys at the top of the draft every year; that doesn’t guarantee you anything. You need to get out of the habit of losing.

“If it happens, you’ve got to make sure it’s just one year. We’ve got to make sure this is our off-year.”

If you turned the standings upside down, Friday’s game looked like a battle of titans. But for at least the first half of it, it really was a battle of minnows.

There were few scoring chances and even fewer flashes of brilliance, and the game seemed destined to remain scoreless before Dan Hamhuis’s turnover helped give Edmonton the lead at 11:50 of the second period.

The Canuck defenceman’s soft pass up the middle was picked off and turned into a 3-on-2 Oiler rush that ended with Jordan Eberle shooting between goalie Jacob Markstrom’s skates to make it 1-0.

Vancouver thought it had taken the lead six minutes earlier when Gaunce fought off Oiler defenceman Darnell Nurse to get to a loose puck in the slot. Edmonton goalie Cam Talbot stopped Gaunce’s shot, but the puck ended up in the net when Gaunce and Nurse crashed into the crease.

Referee Charron waived off the goal due to incidental contact by Gaunce. That seemed a highly-questionable interpretation, although replays appeared to show Gaunce swat the puck with his glove as he fell. Either way, the goal wasn’t going to count.

The non-goal became a non-issue when Edmonton made it 2-0 at 6:03 of the third period when Matt Hendricks, having escaped Linden Vey’s check, skated hard to the net and banged a rebound through Markstrom.

Canucks Sven Baertschi and Chris Tanev hit posts in the final period, when the Canucks failed on a pair of power plays.

“We’ve got to think about the way we play and our process here of trying to get better,” Hank Sedin said. “It was a tough one today, but I thought we played a good game. Maybe we should have won this game. I liked the way we came back (after falling behind) and played good again. But for us right now, a good game is often not good enough to win. That’s where we are.”

THE DEBRIEF

It looked for much of the game like a battle of two of the National Hockey League’s poorest teams. The Canucks surrendered goals to Jordan Eberle and Matt Hendricks, but outshot the Oilers 40-25, including 16-8 in the third period. With a Brendan Gaunce, pictured, goal disallowed in the second, the Canucks were shut out for the sixth time this season. Edmonton goalie Cam Talbot was the first star. Draft rivals, the Oilers are now only a point behind the Canucks.

BY THE NUMBERS

Every Canuck skater was above 50 per cent in even-strength Corsi. Dan Hamhuis led the Canucks at 75.7 per cent (28-9 in shot attempts) but gave away the puck on the Oilers’ first goal. Bo Horvat was 72.7 (28-9). Horvat and Alex Burrows had five shots apiece ... Ben Hutton led Vancouver in ice time at 25:16 ... West Vancouver defenceman Griffin Reinhart led the Oilers with 23:37 TOI, eight blocks and was plus-two ... Canuck winger Radim Vrbata left the game with a knee injury.

TRY TRY-AMKIN AGAIN

Six-foot-seven Russian defenceman Nikita Tryamkin, pictured, logged his second NHL game for the Canucks and looked a little more comfortable than in his Wednesday debut against Colorado, which came a week after the 21-year-old’s arrival from the KHL. Tryamkin partnered with Dan Hamhuis and again kept his game simple. He logged more ice time in the first two periods (13:00) than he did all of his first game (11:33).

LINE UP/DOWN

With defenceman Alex Biega (upper body) able to practise but not play, Canuck coach Willie Desjardins kept the same lineup except in goal, where it was Jacob Markstrom’s turn to start instead of Ryan Miller. With eight players injured, Vancouver dressed seven rookie skaters. AHL call-up Alex Grenier played his fourth NHL game and again got to play with Danny and Hank Sedin, while Andrey Pedan, pictured, logged his fifth NHL game on defence.

NEXT UP?

The Canucks chartered home post-game and play their third game in four nights tonight at Rogers Arena. The Ken Hitchcock-coached St. Louis Blues, pictured, have been resting and waiting for the Canucks in Vancouver after losing 6-4 Wednesday in Edmonton. The defence-first Blues have allowed 17 goals on the first three games of their road trip. St. Louis won 4-3 in Vancouver on Oct. 16.

imacintyre@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/imacvansun

 
 
 
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Vancouver Canucks’ Brendan Gaunce (50) is stopped by Edmonton Oilers’ goalie Cam Talbot (33) as Darnell Nurse (25) defends during first period NHL action in Edmonton on Friday, March 18, 2016.
 

Vancouver Canucks’ Brendan Gaunce (50) is stopped by Edmonton Oilers’ goalie Cam Talbot (33) as Darnell Nurse (25) defends during first period NHL action in Edmonton on Friday, March 18, 2016.

Photograph by: JASON FRANSON, THE CANADIAN PRESS

 
Vancouver Canucks’ Brendan Gaunce (50) is stopped by Edmonton Oilers’ goalie Cam Talbot (33) as Darnell Nurse (25) defends during first period NHL action in Edmonton on Friday, March 18, 2016.
Patrick Maroon #19 of the Edmonton Oilers skates against the Vancouver Canucks on March 18, 2016 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Vancouver Canucks’ goalie Jacob Markstrom (25) makes the save on Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Friday, March 18, 2016.
Vancouver Canucks’ Brendan Gaunce (50) is chased by Edmonton Oilers’ Griffin Reinhart (8) during first period NHL action in Edmonton on Friday, March 18, 2016.
Taylor Hall #4 of the Edmonton Oilers tries to skate past Dan Hamhuis #2 of the Vancouver Canucks on March 18, 2016 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Vancouver Canucks’ Daniel Sedin (22) is chased by Edmonton Oilers’ Griffin Reinhart (8) during first period NHL action in Edmonton on Friday, March 18, 2016.
Iiro Pakarinen #26 of the Edmonton Oilers pursues Jared McCann #91 of the Vancouver Canucks on March 18, 2016 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Goaltender Cam Talbot #33 of the Edmonton Oilers makes a save against the Vancouver Canucks on March 18, 2016 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers faces off against the Vancouver Canucks on March 18, 2016 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Adam Clendening #27 of the Edmonton Oilers defends against Bo Horvat #53 of the Vancouver Canucks on March 18, 2016 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins #93 of the Edmonton Oilers skates against the Vancouver Canucks on March 18, 2016 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Iiro Pakarinen #26 of the Edmonton Oilers takes a shot as teammate Taylor Hall #4 looks on while playing against the Vancouver Canucks on March 18, 2016 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Griffin Reinhart #8 of the Edmonton Oilers skates against the Vancouver Canucks on March 18, 2016 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Vancouver Canucks’ goalie Jacob Markstrom (25) is scored on as Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) skates in during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Friday, March 18, 2016.
Griffin Reinhart #8 of the Edmonton Oilers pursues Brendan Gaunce #50 of the Vancouver Canucks on March 18, 2016 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Darnell Nurse #25, Connor McDavid #97, Jordan Eberle #14 and Patrick Maroon #19 of the Edmonton Oilers celebrate Eberle’s goal against Jacob Markstrom #25 (not pictured) of the Vancouver Canucks on March 18, 2016 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers tries to shoot the puck past Christopher Tanev #8 of the Vancouver Canucks on March 18, 2016 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) and Jordan Oesterle (82) celebrate a goal with teammates against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Friday, March 18, 2016.
Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers tries to put a shot past goaltender Jacob Markstrom #25 of the Vancouver Canucks on March 18, 2016 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Vancouver Canucks’ Alexandre Grenier (65) is stopped by Edmonton Oilers’ goalie Cam Talbot (33) as Jordan Oesterle (82) defends during first period NHL action in Edmonton on Friday, March 18, 2016.
Nikita Tryamkin #88 of the Vancouver Canucks skates against the Edmonton Oilers on March 18, 2016 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Taylor Hall #4 of the Edmonton Oilers battles against Christopher Tanev #8 of the Vancouver Canucks on March 18, 2016 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Vancouver Canucks’ Bo Horvat (53) battles in the corner with Edmonton Oilers’ Taylor Hall (4) during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Friday, March 18, 2016.
Jacob Markstrom #25 of the Vancouver Canucks skates against the Edmonton Oilers on March 18, 2016 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Vancouver Canucks’ Ben Hutton (27) is chased by Edmonton Oilers’ Mark Fayne (5) during first period NHL action in Edmonton on Friday, March 18, 2016.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins #93 of the Edmonton Oilers skates against the Vancouver Canucks on March 18, 2016 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Vancouver Canucks’ Emerson Etem (26) is checked by Edmonton Oilers’ Adam Clendening (27) during first period NHL action in Edmonton on Friday, March 18, 2016.
Jordan Eberle #14 of the Edmonton Oilers battles against Brendan Gaunce #50 of the Vancouver Canucks on March 18, 2016 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Vancouver Canucks’ goalie Jacob Markstrom (25) makes a save as Matt Bartkowski (44) and Edmonton Oilers’ Lauri Korpikoski (28) look for the rebound during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Friday, March 18, 2016.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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