Canucks in need of a tune-up

 

 
 
 
 
Vancouver Canucks goalie Eddie Lack, right, right winger Brad Richardson (15) and defenseman Chrisopher Tanev defend as Anaheim Ducks right winger Emerson Etem (65) moves in during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Anaheim, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013.
 

Vancouver Canucks goalie Eddie Lack, right, right winger Brad Richardson (15) and defenseman Chrisopher Tanev defend as Anaheim Ducks right winger Emerson Etem (65) moves in during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Anaheim, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013.

Photograph by: Reed Saxon, AP

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ANAHEIM, Calif. -- To the victors go the music. But the losers could hear it Sunday night, faintly audible through the doors of the home team’s gym next to the Vancouver Canucks’ dressing room at the Honda Center.

It was dance music. Swedish House Mafia. “Don’t you worry, don’t you worry child.”

It was only a hockey game, a 3-1 Canuck loss to the Anaheim Ducks. No one should worry about that, even if it came only 22 hours after Vancouver was thumped 5-1 by the Los Angeles Kings.

But it ended with the Canucks’ own Swedish rock stars, Henrik and Daniel Sedin, disbanded, separated by coach John Tortorella in the third period due to his top line’s ineffectiveness.

In four road games against the best teams in the National Hockey League’s best division, the Sedins and Ryan Kesler generated two goals, one of them on the power play, which on Sunday Tortorella said “sucked.”

And in the final two games in Southern California, where the Canucks had the chance to make their Pacific Division tour as spectacular as the weather that accompanied it, Vancouver got one goal from a forward and the scorer’s name was Tom Sestito.

Leading scorer Henrik Sedin, who started the trip by capping a 12-game points streak and ended it in a three-game slump, was minus-five on the weekend and dropped to the second line.

The Sedins were outscored on the road, two points to one, by Zack Kassian and Brad Richardson, who on Sunday beautifully set up Sestito’s first goal in 20 games.

The Canucks’ top scorer in the four games was defenceman Kevin Bieksa, who had three points but made key defensive mistakes on game-changing goals by the Ducks and Kings.

Only Friday, the Canucks were walking on sunshine after a 4-2 win against the San Jose Sharks and 3-2 shootout loss to the Phoenix Coyotes. But early Monday, they arrived home in the dark, sobered by the difficulty of the Pacific Division.

The Canucks’ only bad stretch was a 10-minute spell against the Kings. Yet, by finishing the trip 1-2-1, Vancouver lost a net three points in the standings against their four fierce rivals in the Pacific.

They finished with the Sedins on different lines, and with back-to-back regulation losses for the first time in a month.

“It’s been a struggle,” Tortorella said of his first line. “The past few games, it has. We know what they are as people. We know what they are as players. They’re going to bounce out of it; they’re going to be the players we know they are.”

The Canucks do not play again until Thursday, when they open a six-game homestand against the Sharks. Everyone needs a rest.

A series of halting individual mistakes on Saturday, couple with their inability to win puck battles against the Kings, suggested the Canucks were tired. They did, after all, practise lightly Friday on what was a logical rest day amid four games in six nights.

Fatigue will be a default accusation as long as Tortorella continues to play the Sedins and Kesler — on a team that leads the league in travel miles — more minutes than any NHL forward other than Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby.

But the fatigue theory was undermined by the Canucks’ dominance of the Ducks for most of Sunday. At one point, shots were 20-5 for Vancouver. The Sedins and Kesler, however, were even less effective than the night before.

“There are times in the season when you’re not going to get bounces,” Henrik said. “But, saying that, we have to battle harder. We have to play better. We played OK, but we didn’t play good enough. That’s the bottom line.”

Daniel added: “The top guys, we should win this game for us. I think our third and fourth line played great tonight, but it’s up to us (on the first line) to be better. This road trip, we haven’t played well enough either.”

Tortorella elevated Mike Santorelli to play between Kesler and Danny Sedin in the third period against the Ducks, who were without injured star Ryan Getzlaf and got a winning goal by Nick Bonino at 19:09 of the second period after a Canuck line change led to a 3-on-2 Anaheim rush that was poorly defended by Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis.

Tortorella was unhappy about that, and with winger Alex Burrows for failing to score on the Canucks’ best chance of the third period. Burrows was stopped from the top of the crease by rookie Frederik Andersen, who is 6-0 and looks like the best Danish goalie since Peter Schmeichel. Eddie Lack played goal for the Canucks, who finished ahead 36-23 on shots.

There is little margin for error against teams like the Ducks, who are 15-3-1 and lead the NHL. The Canucks are seven points adrift at 11-7-2.

“Games are won and lost on just a good defensive play or a really good offensive play, or a bad defensive play and not capitalizing on your chance,” Tortorella said.

“We have a great chance with Burr. That’s a big play; we need to score. We need to make that next big play in these types of games. And we will.”

Earlier, he said: “I thought our team played hard tonight. I think we make a bonehead read on a play that caused us to put them up 2-1 late in the second period. It’s a huge play. It’s something that should be taken care of. It wasn’t.”

Bieksa didn’t view it with the same magnitude.

“It was Hammer and myself jumping off the bench, just sprinting to get back and we really didn’t have a chance to read the rush,” he said. But “it’s one goal. It’s one goal in the second period that shouldn’t determine the outcome of the game.”

Winger Chris Higgins said Tortorella told players during the second intermission: “‘Good teams win these games.’ We didn’t find a way to win.”

They failed both nights on the weekend, when a potentially great road trip fizzled and left the feeling the Pacific Division is as powerful and unforgiving as the body of water for which it is named.

“We know we can compete and beat all these teams,” defenceman Chris Tanev said. “If you take out 10 minutes of the Kings’ game ... we played pretty well the whole way through.”

Yes they did, and look what it got them.

imacintyre@vancouversun.com

Twitter.com/imacvansun

 
 
 
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Vancouver Canucks goalie Eddie Lack, right, right winger Brad Richardson (15) and defenseman Chrisopher Tanev defend as Anaheim Ducks right winger Emerson Etem (65) moves in during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Anaheim, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013.
 

Vancouver Canucks goalie Eddie Lack, right, right winger Brad Richardson (15) and defenseman Chrisopher Tanev defend as Anaheim Ducks right winger Emerson Etem (65) moves in during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Anaheim, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013.

Photograph by: Reed Saxon, AP

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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