Canucks bit by Sharks’ late finish in San Jose's 2-1 overtime win
OT heartbreak: Vancouver was 65 seconds away from ‘perfect’ — too bad close doesn’t count
Vancouver Canucks’ centre Henrik Sedin (33) on the puck in front of San Jose Sharks’ goalie Antti Niemi (31 and defenceman Dan Boyle (22).
Photograph by: NICK PROCAYLO, PNG
VANCOUVER — Mathematically, it is possible to win a game by scoring only once. Look at soccer. Heck, in the National Hockey League, you can win without scoring at all, as long as you have the circus skills to win the contrived breakaway contest at the end.
So, when Kevin Bieksa scored on the power play late in the second period Thursday, the Vancouver Canucks had a chance. All they needed was for the defending, goaltending and penalty-killing to be perfect.
The San Jose Sharks make it hard for anyone to be perfect, and the Canucks were not. They lost 2-1 on Dan Boyle's overtime power-play goal, a few minutes after Boyle's flubbed shot trickled to Tomas Hertl for the Sharks' tying goal with 1:05 remaining in regulation time.
It was the third straight game the Canucks scored once. It was also their third straight loss against a rival from the National Hockey League's Pacific Division.
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“Not frustrated, just pissed off not to get the second (goal) to go up 2-0,” Bieksa said. “We're getting lots of shots on net. We had 35-plus again and it's only a matter of time before they're going to go in.
“Burr is close. Santorelli and Higgy are close. We can't get frustrated. We're getting chances, getting shots.”
But their fiercest rivals are getting points.
Including their 1-2-1 tour of the Pacific that ended Sunday, the Canucks have lost a net four points against the top four teams in their division.
Alex Burrows, goal-less in nine games this season, missed the net on a great scoring chance in the second period against the Sharks. So did Chris Higgins on what appeared to be a tap-in. So too, most surprisingly, did captain Henrik Sedin miss the net from about five feet out and San Jose goalie Antti Niemi absent.
“We've got to find a way to score more goals,” Sedin understated. “We played a great game. We should have had a couple of more goals. We have to look at the way we played tonight.”
Canuck coach John Tortorella said: “We played a really good hockey game. We end up getting tied on a fanned shot that goes to the young kid, Hertl. So you know what? It's a kick in the teeth to lose it. But looking at the big picture and some of the things we did against a pretty good hockey club, that is what we are going to take out of this game. We played a really good game right on through. We'll be on the other end of one of these.”
Hopefully, a few of them.
A week ago, Bieksa was re-positioned on the power play. His new spot was on the bench.
“This isn't the first time in my career I've been taken off the power play," Bieksa said last Wednesday after a game in Phoenix. "I'm OK with it. I'll sit and wait for my turn and hopefully the power play can get going. They're going to try new things for sure.”
Thursday, Tortorella tried Bieksa on the point on the first-unit power play. And Bieksa tried a point shot late in the second period that tumbled past Niemi, making a 1-0 Canuck win seem possible.
A few days ago, winger David Booth was in Utica, which is somewhere in New York. A few days from now? Hard to say. But Thursday, the enigmatic winger with three goals in 39 games over parts of this season and the last two, was back in the Canuck lineup, skating on a rejigged third line that was bestowed solid ice time.
As the Canucks hopped past the quarter-pole in their schedule, they continue to be a land of opportunity. Roles are changeable, lines fluid.
The objective as always, despite Tortorella's insistence on revving his top players beyond conventional red lines at which their engines would break, is to find enough balance in the team to make the Canucks multi-dimensional and less reliant than they have been on the first-line scoring of Ryan Kesler and the brothers Sedin, Danny and Hank.
The connection between Booth and Bieksa is this: if the Canucks are to not only survive their brutal division but go anywhere when they get to the playoffs, they'll need scoring from its power play and its third line. They'll need something more than the Sedins and Kesler, and goalie Roberto Luongo and a defence that is experienced and well-rounded.
They'll need more than the one goal.
Given all that we've seen the last two years, it would be naïve to count on Booth being much help until he shows that he can score like he did long ago in Florida. On his first shift Thursday, he failed to hit the target from the low slot on a perfect cross-ice pass from Zack Kassian.
The power play, however, has more upside. And the return soon from a shoulder injury of two-way winger Jannik Hansen – possibly Sunday's game against the Dallas Stars – should pay far more reliable dividends than the return from a minor-league conditioning stint of Booth.
But still, even when this team is healthy, the Canucks still look a forward or two short. That will be general manager Mike Gillis' problem to fix, not Tortorella's.
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