Goalie Roberto Luongo #1 of the Vancouver Canucks makes a glove save on Brandon Pirri #37 of the Chicago Blackhawks during the first period in NHL action on November 23, 2013 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Photograph by: Rich Lam, Getty Images
VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Canucks proved Saturday they can play with the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks for 40 minutes. It was the final 20 that became a problem.
Desperately needing a victory to stay within hollering distance of the Western Conference playoff teams, the Canucks squandered a 1-0 third-period advantage and fell 2-1 to the 'Hawks, surrendering goals nine seconds apart to Andrew Shaw and Marcus Kruger early in the third.
Both went 5-hole on Roberto Luongo – at 4:40 and 4:49 of the final frame. Luongo had been superb up to that point.
The Canucks made critical mistakes on both goals as Dan Hamhuis passed to nobody on the tying goal and then rookie Ryan Stanton, the ex-Blackhawk, was caught up ice on the ensuing faceoff, allowing Kruger to score on the 2-on-1.
“I think we beat ourselves there and teams like Chicago will capitalize,” sighed Canuck head coach John Tortorella, who has seen this movie all too often. “We kill a penalty, we get our guy on the ice, we throw the puck away and it ends up in our net. Then, off a faceoff, we decide to go off the map and we give up an odd-man rush and it's in our net. I think we did a lot of good things but we beat ourselves in those few seconds.”
Ryan Kesler, on a first-period 5-on-3 power play goal, netted the lone Canuck goal as Vancouver's offence, which had exploded for six goals Friday night against Columbus, returned to its anemic ways. Oh, the Canucks had plenty of shots again – 37 on the night and 14 after they trailed – but again there was no finish.
Blackhawk netminder Corey Crawford made some quality saves in the third once his team gained the lead to win his 15th of the season.
“I like the way we responded after they scored and we had chance after chance but we don't score,” continued Tortorella. “Yeah, I am tired of talking about chances. We just have to keep banging away at it.”
Luongo was not happy with the Kruger tally, which seems to be the story of this season. He has a lapse and his teammates can't bail him out with a goal or two.
“It's disappointing,” said Luongo. “I've got to come up with the save (on Kruger) on that one.”
The Canucks are 12-9-4 in 25 games and have settled into ninth place in the ultra-competitve Western Conference where Anaheim, Colorado, St. Louis, Minnesota and San Jose all won again and the L.A. Kings, Vancouver's next opponent, collected a loser point.
Captain Henrik Sedin was also disappointed and running out of words to describe another game in which numerous chances resulted in just one goal and another gut-wrenching loss.
“I think we've shown there is enough offence in this room,” he said. “I know it's tiring to talk about but if you look at it game-to-game and the chances afterwards... It can't just be one game and then you're off again. We have to stay positive somehow and look at the chances we are creating but it's tough. If we don't put them away, we're going to keep losing.”
The loss dropped the Canucks' record at Rogers Arena to a mediocre 5-5-2. They are 1-2-2 on their six-game homestand and will wrap it up Monday against the 2012 Stanley Cup champion Kings. The way things are unfolding at home they may be extremely happy to get out of town on Tuesday.
The Canucks attempted to surrender the first goal of the game with some ghastly turnovers but Luongo was having none of it, his best save coming off Patrick Kane on a full 2-on-1 after a perfect Brandon Pirri dish.
Chicago then ran into some late penalty trouble in the first as Brandon Saad went off for slashing Kesler and then Shaw, on the penalty kill, interfered with Henrik Sedin while trying to spring himself free for another 2-on-1.
The Canucks made Shaw pay as Kesler slotted home a Jason Garrison rebound during the 5-on-3. It was Kesler's team-leading 10th goal of the season.
Tortorella's skaters were the better team in the second period, outshooting the 'Hawks 13-10 despite having to kill off a penalty, but they couldn't increase their lead thanks in part to their own lack of finish and the work of Crawford.
It came back to haunt them in the third.
The Canucks also couldn't take advantage of Marian Hossa's absence after the elite Blackhawk winger was summoned back to Chicago for family reasons.
Canuck right winger Zack Kassian had another tough night turning over pucks and was finally parked by Tortorella in the second period and replaced on the third line by Dale Weise.
“I make decisions on who's going to give me the best chance to win the game and those are the decisions I made tonight,” responded Tortorella when queried about the Kassian benching.
ICE CHIPS: Canuck defenceman Jason Garrison snapped a 14-game points drought with his first-period assist... Patrick Kane extended his points streak to 10 games with an assist on Shaw's goal...Canuck scratches Saturday were again David Booth, Zac Dalpe and Andrew Alberts... In addition to missing Hossa, the Blackhawks were without injured players Bryan Bickell, Michal Handzus, Mark Kostka and backup netminder Nikolai Khabibulin... Eight NHL clubs had pro scouts at Rogers Arena Saturday. Swedish Olympic team scouts were also in attendance.
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