Vancouver Canucks Eddie Lack looks dejected after the New York Rangers Martin St. Louis 26 scores short handed late in the 3rd period at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on April 1, 2014.
Photograph by: Mark van Manen, PNG
The game off the ice was trying to trump the one on it Tuesday.
Normally billed as a marquee matchup with the New York Rangers, the lustre was lost months ago when the Vancouver Canucks slipped into a deep offensive coma and their embattled coach snapped and couldn't snap them out of it. And with the pursuit of a wild-card playoff position closer to being taken off life support following a 3-1 loss at Rogers Arena, the angst amid the hockey populace was obvious.
There were 'Fire Gillis' signs outside the arena and the national media has joined the growing consensus that John Tortorella will pay the price for this mess. Scalpers were unloading tickets at below face value and countless rows of sparsely-filled seats spoke to the how season-ticket renewal time is being received.
With five games remaining, the prognosis of having Game 80 or 82 mean something is slipping away. Dallas won 5-0 over Washington and Phoenix lost 2-1 in a shootout to Winnipeg, leaving the Canucks six points back of eighth place. The Stars have two games in hand and the Coyotes one.
The one sign you didn't see was 'Let's Win One For Torts'. And that's a sign of the times.
"I'm pleased with the effort of the club and thought we battled," said Tortorella. "We lost. We're losing. We've just got to try and get better. I'm not making excuses, but we do need a number of chances to score."
On a night where you thought the Canucks would be amped from the outset to face former coach Alain Vigneault, they dug an early two-goal hole but were good in the face-off circle — yet simply not good enough in other areas of their game. There was a strong second-period push with Ryan Kesler winning a draw and then taking a feed from Daniel Sedin and wiring a slapshot past Henrik Lundqvist. There was Yannick Weber nearly seeing his point shot trickle in, but there was nothing sustained. And sustainability has always been a problem with a coach preaching push and bite and major minutes for aging veterans. Too often they have run out of gas, even though they managed 13 of their 35 shots in the third period.
"We should have won this game, but it doesn't matter right now," said Daniel Sedin. "We've been on the wrong side of these games throughout the season and it's frustrating. It's not a good-looking power play and throughout the season it hasn't won us a lot of games and that's been a big problem."
When it mattered most, the Canucks couldn't connect in the third period where they've been outscored 74-56 are 3-25-1 when down after 40 minutes. Trailing 2-1, they had consecutive power plays but gave up a shorthanded goal to Martin St. Louis on a 2-on-1 break with Rick Nash after Weber couldn't corral a Zack Kassian feed to the point. Shawn Matthias was then foiled on two chances and it would ensure the playoff-bound Rangers would win for the seventh time in eight games.
"It's almost impossible to come back in the third period in this league and we shoot ourselves in the foot," said Kesler. "Another shorthanded goal and the penalty kill didn't get the job done — that's the difference."
The Canucks got a scare at the end of the first period when Kassian tumbled into the endboards while being checked by Anton Stralman. He didn't put any weight on his right leg and had to be helped off the ice but returned for the second period. Kassian then found himself on the fourth line as Tortorella started mixing combinations to get something started. The only safe bet was Jannik Hansen, who played mostly on the fourth line, doing little to endear himself to any coach with 1:35 of ice time in the first period and being on for both Ranger goals.
Woven into all the navel-gazing is how being thrust in the starter's role is either helping or hurting the development of Eddie Lack. In his 17th-consecutive start, Lack was lackadaisical on the opening goal. He waved at a puck coming off the endboards and the mosh-pit that formed in front of him ended up with Daniel Carcillo poking the puck home. Lack had little chance when Benoit Pouliot wired a power-play slapper by him on a cross-ice feed from Derick Brassard that started when Lack made a blocker save. Then came the shorthanded back-breaker by St. Louis.
"I felt we were giving up a lot of 2-on-1s and eventually they're going to score," said Lack. "It was a good shot by a good player."
OF NOTE — Burrows received a five-minute elbowing major and game misconduct for hitting Ryan McDonough with 44 seconds remaining. Said Burrows: "He was coming through the middle and I was trying to cut him off and I don't know really what happened. My intentions weren't to be dirty, just forecheck and get the puck."
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