VANCOUVER - It was a mean-nothing game and that's exactly how the Vancouver Canucks seemed to treat it. For two periods, anyway.
Despite lots of talk following Thursday morning's game-day skate about trying to build off Monday night's big 3-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks and carrying some momentum into the playoffs, the Canucks instead went through the motions for 40 minutes against a team masquerading as the Anaheim Ducks.
The Ducks, playing without Ryan Getzlaf, Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu, Bobby Ryan and Bryan Allen, beat the Canucks 3-1 in a game at Rogers Arena that had very little excitement until the third period.
This one felt a lot like a pre-season game as neither team had much to play for. The Ducks have the No. 2 seed wrapped up and the Canucks will finish third. Both teams are simply waiting to find out who their first-round opponent will be when the playoffs start next week.
"We weren't very happy with the way we were playing," defenceman Dan Hamhuis said of the talk the players had among themselves after the second period, when the Canucks trailed 2-0 and had been outshot 25-9. "Sometimes these games are hard to play when it's end of the season and you are not moving anywhere in the standings. And they took a lot of their players out of the lineup, so that kind of adds to that. But it's still no excuse.
"We didn't have the mindset we needed those first two periods. We weren't happy with it, but I think we showed a lot of resolve coming out in the third and playing a hard period and we ended up outshooting them 20-5, so that was a good sign."
After a scoreless first period, the Ducks pretty much sealed the deal with two goals less than two minutes apart in the second period.
The first one came on a power play at the 6:44 mark when Matt Beleskey tipped a Cam Fowler slap shot from the top of the left circle past Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo.
If this was indeed Luongo's final start at Rogers Arena as a Canuck, he won't want to be remembered for the Ducks' second goal. Brad Staubitz beat Luongo short side from the far edge of the right circle at 8:21 of the second.
"Our d-man put his stick in front so I didn't see the release and it kind of handcuffed me a little bit," Luongo said. "But that's no excuse. I have to make that save 100 times out of 100."
Coach Alain Vigneault shuffled his lines in the third and the Canucks had considerably more jump. Zack Kassian skated with the Sedins, Ryan Kesler moved back to centre between Alex Burrows and Mason Raymond, while Derek Roy centered a line with Chris Higgins and Jannik Hansen.
But there was no dressing down by the coach between the second and third periods.
"No, he didn't come in," Hamhuis said. "It was just the players, just on ourselves to be better."
The Canucks finally beat Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller at 16:42 of the third on a 5-on-3 power play when defenceman Jason Garrison ripped a slap shot past him.
The Canucks had a power-play to finish the game and pulled Luongo for an extra attacker. They had some chances, but could not get the equalizer before Andrew Cogliano iced things with an empty-netter at 19:32 of the third.
"I thought we were emotionally invested in this game for 20 minutes," said captain Henrik Sedin. "We outplayed them for the last 20 and that's the way it should have been for 60. We weren't there, we weren't sharp and we didn't win any battles."
Vigneault was at a loss to explain his team's Jekyll and Hyde performance.
"Don't have an answer for you," he said. "I mean, obviously we weren't very good in the first two periods. They outworked us. They were first to the puck and obviously were winning a lot more battles. In the third, we had a little more jump and made it a closer game but it wasn't good enough tonight, without a doubt.”
The loss snapped an eight-game winning streak on home ice for the Canucks, who finished with a record of 15-6-3 at Rogers Arena this season.
ICE CHIPS: Defenceman Derek Joslin played his first game as a Canuck. He was paired with Andrew Alberts. . .Fellow defenceman Keith Ballard returned after missing Monday night's game with a back injury and skated on the fourth line alongside Andrew Ebbett and Zack Kassian. . .The Canucks finish the regular season Saturday night in Edmonton. Luongo will start that game as the Canucks opt to give more rest to Cory Schnedier, who is nursing an undisclosed injury.
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