Canucks start strong but fade in 3-1 loss to Wild
Minnesota now two points up on Canucks in race for Northwest Division title
The night wasn't a total loss for the Vancouver Canucks.
They did score on the power play.
But the National Hockey League result was all too familiar as the Canucks dropped a key Northwest Division matchup Monday, falling 3-1 to the Minnesota Wild at Rogers Arena.
Henrik Sedin snapped an 0-for-36 drought on the power play to give the Canucks a 1-0 lead midway through the second period. But the Wild answered with a power-play goal of their own five minutes later and got third-period goals from Charlie Coyle and Matt Cullen to beat the Canucks for the second time in eight days.
“Obviously, we are trying, we’re working hard, but we are not winning,” goalie Roberto Luongo said in an almost deserted Vancouver dressing room. “When that happens, sometimes guys tend to press a little bit and that’s not always a good thing.”
It has been smooth sailing for several years now for the Canucks as they navigated their way through the NHL’s Northwest Passage. They didn’t as much hit a wave.
But suddenly the waters have become choppy and now they are following another team’s wake.
The win moved the Wild two points up on the Canucks in the race for the Northwest Division title. Vancouver, now 13-9-6, lost for the sixth time in its last eight games. The Wild have won five of their last six games.
Coyle snapped a 1-1 tie at 3:20 of the third when he tipped a point shot by defenceman Clayton Stoner past Luongo, who felt the play should have been reviewed for a possible high stick.
“It went off the bar and in and it wasn’t tipped up,” Luongo said. “I would have liked to maybe take a look at it. It’s an important game, an important part of the game and I was a little disappointed they went to the faceoff right away ... it was close enough to review it, that’s for sure.”
Cullen gave the Wild a two-goal cushion off the rush at 9:17 after he avoided a check by Vancouver defenceman Keith Ballard, took a pass from Devin Setoguchi and put a shot through Luongo’s legs.
“I know Cullen likes to do that move, but it didn’t have time to register in my brain because it happened so quick,” Luongo said. “I need to come up with a save there and keep it at 2-1.”
The game followed a somewhat familiar script. The Canucks were the better team for most of the first two periods, but faded in the third. And once again, they had the second best goaltender on the night as Niklas Backstrom outplayed Luongo.
The Canucks’ game plan seemed simple: fire the puck toward the net from just about anywhere. They directed 79 shots at Backstrom. Only 36 got through as 23 missed the net and 20 were blocked.
Once again, the Canucks were brutal in the faceoff circle. They won only 21 of 65 (32 per cent) of the draws. That meant for much of the night they were chasing the puck.
“They are trying their best,” coach Alain Vigneault said of his centres.
“This game is about puck possession and if you always have to chase the first 20 seconds of a shift it’s tough to create anything,” added Henrik Sedin.
Vigneault was actually quite pleased with his team’s effort.
“Again tonight I liked both our first and second periods,” Vigneault said. “We went into the third tied and in real good shape and they were able to pounce on a shot going beside the net. Then we made a mistake on the third goal and they made us pay for it and we couldn’t make them pay for their mistakes.
“I liked a lot of parts about our game tonight. We went after them. We played well with the puck. We put pressure on them. We had some real solid scoring chances and we forced their goaltender to make some good saves.”
Henrik’s power-play goal came at 10:18 of the second period. Jason Garrison’s shot from the point bounced off Daniel Sedin and directly to Henrik, who slid the puck past Backstrom. Henrik raised his arms to the heavens after the goal.
But the Wild tied the game with a power-play goal of their own. Defenceman Jonas Brodin wired a shot from the left point past Luongo at 15:06 of the second after a nice pass from Dany Heatley.
“I thought we got a good 60-minute effort,” Henrik said. “If we can keep playing like that every game we are going to get wins ... I don’t think we gave up a whole lot of chances. But again, when you go down 2-1 you tend to be a little bit more aggressive on the forecheck and you might give up a little bit more than you usually do, but I thought we played a good 60 minutes.”
The Canucks mixed up their two power-play units to try to break out of their lengthy funk. Garrison was bumped up to the first unit and fired several shots during Vancouver’s two first-period power plays. None hit the net.
The other change to the first unit had Jannik Hansen replacing Alex Burrows, who dropped down to play on the second unit with Chris Higgins, Mason Raymond, Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis.
Jordan Schroeder, recalled Monday to fill in for the injured David Booth, centred the fourth line with Dale Weise and Tom Sestito.
ICE CHIPS: Henrik now has as many goals (8) as his brother ... The Canucks close out their four-game homestand Tuesday when the St. Louis Blues visit Rogers Arena. Vigneault said Cory Schneider will start in goal against the Blues ... The Canucks begin a three-game road trip Thursday in Phoenix. That trip also makes stops Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles and Sunday night in Denver.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun