SAN JOSE — Cory Schneider had called it the House of Horrors in recalling those dark days when the Vancouver Canucks were spooked at the HP Pavilion. Those days were back on Sunday.
Despite winning their last four visits to The Shark Tank, the Canucks were chum in the water because they made dumb plays, took dumber penalties and couldn't cash in on the generosity of Ryan Clowe's constant parade to the penalty box with five minors, a 10-minute misconduct and game misconduct. He even fought and racked up a total of 35 minutes.
An early feeding frenzy fuelled the Sharks to a 4-1 victory and five-straight wins to start the shortened NHL season by outscoring the opposition 23-8. And because the Canucks couldn't covert simple plays — Jason Garrison failing to clear a Marc-Edouard Vlasic rebound to allow Joe Thornton to find the short side before Alex Edler put a clearing attempt on the stick of Joe Pavelski who went glove — they were down two goals before four minutes elapsed. Scary stuff.
"My back was turned up ice and I didn't want to throw it up the middle," said Garrison. "I wasn't patient enough and could have kept it and instead put it right on Thornton's stick and he's not going to miss those opportunities."
Added Edler: "I was trying to go with a high saucer pass and just missed it completely. It's not the start we wanted. It was a bad start and they're good team."
Zack Kassian attempted to change momentum when he duked it out with Clowe in a spirited centre-ice bout, but it didn't have a lasting effect as the Canucks fell to 2-2-1.
Once down a pair, the Canucks changed their defensive pairings — Dan Hamhuis with Edler and Kevin Bieksa with Garrison — but couldn't change the outcome, even though they had ample opportunity to reverse another poor start and chip away at the deficit.
It started late in the first period while on a 5-on-3 advantage in the Sharks zone. Jordan Schroeder failed to win the draw and the collective 25 per cent faceoff efficiency in the frame — and 32 per cent overall — will probably get Manny Malhotra back in the lineup Monday in Los Angeles where Roberto Luongo is expected to start.
"Guys were fired up, but we could have been smarter on some penalties," said Alex Burrows. "We had a good response and came back in the second period. But at the end of the day, we've got to be better."
The second blown chance came following a Burrows shot and rebound that bounced off the skate of Dan Boyle. It pulled the Canucks to within a goal midway through the second period, but Lapierrre took an interference penalty and the Sharks then looked like the Harlem Globetrotters to make it 3-1.
A dizzy sequence of passes ended with Schneider sprawling back to make a save only to push the puck off his left skate and off the skate of Patrick Marleau. Schneider then shoved it over the goalline as he attempted to snag it. It gave Marleau a league leading nine goals and gave the Canucks a tougher mountain to climb.
"We responded well until Max took that penalty," said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. "We had total momentum and it was a one-goal game. Their power play is one of the best I've seen in a long time. It's disappointing when you take a penalty 200 feet from your net. Then we had a power play to start the third and didn't have a shot on net."
Lapierre was playing despite a groin injury and logged just 8:34 and wasn't happy with his game or the take on the penalty call.
"I think it's a hockey play and I was trying to cut to the net." he said. "Obviously, I don't like losing and I'm not in a good mood right now and it's a tough one to digest."
Tough because the Canucks pushed back. Chris Higgins nearly converted a neat Jannik Hansen backhand spin pass and Edler then clanged a power-play shot of the post. And when Garrison hit a post late in the third period that made it five in total. The biggest miss was early with the Sharks up 1-0 and B.C. native Matt Irwin falling down in his own zone and Hansen putting a shot past Antti Niemi and off the iron.
After scoring three power-play goals Friday in Anaheim, the Canucks couldn't finish Sunday. Mason Raymond had two goals against the Ducks and didn't have a shot Sunday. He did take a minor in the third period and Pavelski wired a slapshot to the far side to cap scoring.
And when it was too little too late, Aaron Volpatti fought Douglas Murray and Bieksa took on Desjardins to try to build some momentum for Monday. And to learn from Sunday.
"The start shouldn't happen," said Daniel Sedin. "We stepped up, but 2-0 is too tough to come back against."
"That cost us the game," summed up captain Henrik Sedin.
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