Canucks lose grip on division lead with 4-2 loss at Wild
The Vancouver Canucks continued Sunday to look like a last-place team, which is where they will soon find themselves unless they find their game.
Minnesota Wild left-winger Jason Zucker scores against Vancouver Canucks goalie Cory Schneider during the first period of Sunday's National Hockey League game in St. Paul, Minn.
Photograph by: Genevieve Ross, The Associated Press
ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Vancouver Canucks continued Sunday to look like a last-place team, which is where they will soon find themselves unless they find their game.
Their latest mess was a 4-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild that featured a first-minute goal against and another fruitless night for their power play.
The loss was Vancouver's fourth straight and sixth in the last seven. As a result, they now share the Northwest Division lead with Minnesota but the Wild are seeded ahead of them based on the tie-breaker of more regulation plus overtime victories. The Canucks have won just three of their last 12 and, when they glance at the standings, they will notice they are only one point above the playoff bar in the Western Conference.
In golf parlance, they have backed up to the field. And to make matters even more squeamish, their next game Tuesday is against the Columbus Blue Jackets, merely the hottest team in the West with five straight wins.
“It's tough right now, we're being tested,” said Canuck alternate captain Daniel Sedin. “It's disappointing. I think we're working really hard but are we working the right way? I don't know.”
Daniel, normally less talkative than brother Henrik, pointed a finger at himself and Henrik for not producing enough, especially on the power play that is now 0-for-its-last-20.
“We've got a lot of leadership and a lot of older guys in our group but each and every guy has to do their job and it starts with me and Hank,” said a passionate Daniel. “I mean, we're leaders on this team and this is a game I think we could have got ourselves back into if our power play was good enough. We're two guys who can make that happen and we didn't do that tonight. It starts with me and Hank. That's the bottom line. We have the puck a lot and we have to make those plays.”
While it was noble for Daniel to fall on his sword – and Henrik's – there was plenty of blame to spread around. The twins weren't on the ice when Zach Parise scored 24 seconds into the opening period.
They weren't playing goalie either. Cory Schneider had little chance on the first two Wild goals by Parise and rookie Jason Zucker, which made it 2-0 after 20 minutes, but he did allow Jared Spurgeon's power-play goal in the second to slide under his right pad and couldn't hold his post in the third when Parise jammed the back-breaker past him after Chris Higgins and Henrik had pulled the Canucks to within one.
Schneider did make other saves that were marvellous, stoning Devin Setoguchi three times in particular, but he wasn't happy and neither was head coach Alain Vigneault. Roberto Luongo is likely to emerge from mothballs Tuesday in Columbus.
“Cory is like the rest of our team right now,” Vigneault said. “We're all a little bit off and we're all going to work to get back on.”
Vigneault attempted to create a spark with his unproductive group in the second period and began juggling all his lines other than the Sedin twins with Alex Burrows. Mason Raymond went back to left wing, Higgins was moved to centre, Jordan Schroeder moved up a line and Max Lapierre returned to his usual fourth-line spot.
Vigneault even put Jason Garrison on the first-unit power play, abandoning the Schroeder experiment there.
“The power play didn't generate much again,” Vigneault muttered. “Our power play is definitely a deterrent for the other team's physical play. When it's not performing the way ours is now, especially with the personnel that I believe we have that can get the job done, we need to find solutions and we're going to get right back at it tomorrow.”
Schneider has lost his last three starts, one in a shootout, one in overtime and Sunday's in regulation. He has just six wins in 14 decisions (6-5-3) and is finding life a little difficult than he did as a backup.
“We can't panic, it's not time to panic yet,” said Schneider, who finished with 28 saves. “It is time to get some urgency and win hockey games but we can't just sort of abandon everything we've been working on and that we've been doing for the past few years.”
As for those third and fourth Wild goals, he was especially miffed with the Spurgeon strike.
“It went right under my pad and that's a couple this year that have kind of snuck under there,” he said. “It's just something I have to figure out with Rollie Melanson (goalie coach) and make sure it doesn't happen again. On the fourth one, I felt like I had it sealed and he just out-muscled me and just jammed it in and somehow it snuck over the line. Parise gets a lot of goals that way, just hacking and whacking and trying to stuff pucks.”
The opening period featured some decent emotion as Burrows tried to stir it up with Wild captain Mikko Koivu, resulting in a giant scrum. Even the mild-mannered Alex Edler was involved and was assessed a roughing penalty. On the next shift, Tom Sestito and Mike Rupp dropped the mitts in a heavyweight bout.
ICE CHIPS: The Canucks' lone healthy scratch Sunday was defenceman Cam Barker as Keith Ballard returned from his charley horse after missing just one game.
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