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).
 
 

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

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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.

imacintyre@vancouversun.com

 
 
 
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Vancouver Canucks’ centre Henrik Sedin (33) on the puck in front of San Jose Sharks’ goalie Antti Niemi (31 and defenceman Dan Boyle (22).
 

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 Canucks’ centre Henrik Sedin (33) on the puck in front of San Jose Sharks’ goalie Antti Niemi (31 and defenceman Dan Boyle (22).
Vancouver Canucks' Ryan Kesler, left, attempts a shot on San Jose Sharks' goalie Antti Niemi, of Finland, as Brad Stuart, 7, and Justin Braun, 61, check Canucks Daniel Sedin, centre, of Sweden, during first period NHL hockey action in Vancouver, B.C., on Thursday November 14, 2013.
Vancouver Canucks’ left winger Daniel Sedin (22) chases San Jose Sharks’ centre Joe Thornton (19).
Dan Hamhuis #2 of the Vancouver Canucks skates away after checking Logan Couture #39 of the San Jose Sharks.
Vancouver Canucks’ left winger Daniel Sedin (22) chases San Jose Sharks centre Joe Thornton (19).
San Jose Sharks’ goalie Antti Niemi, of Finland, makes a blocker save against the Vancouver Canucks.
Antti Niemi #31 of the San Jose Sharks watches as Dan Boyle #22 of the Sharks pursues Henrik Sedin #33 of the Vancouver Canucks.
Vancouver Canucks’ left winger David Booth (7) tries to break past San Jose Sharks’ centre Joe Pavelski (8) and left winger James Sheppard (15).
Brad Stuart #7 of the San Jose Sharks checks Ryan Kesler #17 of the Vancouver Canucks.
Daniel Sedin #22 of the Vancouver Canucks balances a puck on his stick before their NHL game against the San Jose Sharks at Rogers Arena.
Vancouver Canucks’ Ryan Kesler, left, attempts a shot on San Jose Sharks’ goalie Antti Niemi, of Finland, as Brad Stuart, 7, and Justin Braun, 61, check Canucks’ Daniel Sedin, third left, of Sweden, while Matt Nieto, 83, defends against Canucks’ Henrik Sedin, right.
Vancouver Canucks’ centre Henrik Sedin (33) on the puck in front of San Jose Sharks’ goalie Antti Niemi (31) and defenceman Dan Boyle (22).
Vancouver Canucks’ Henrik Sedin, right, of Sweden, tries to stickhandle around San Jose Sharks’ Justin Braun.
Vancouver Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa (left) is on the receiving end of a rub-out along the boards by San Jose Sharks forward James Sheppard during the Canucks-Sharks NHL game in San Jose, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013.
Vancouver Canucks’ Alex Burrows, left, checks San Jose Sharks’ Dan Boyle in front of goalie Antti Niemi.
San Jose Sharks’ goalie Antti Niemi, of Finland, makes a blocker save against the Vancouver Canucks.
Vancouver Canucks’ Ryan Kesler, left, attempts a shot on San Jose Sharks’ goalie Antti Niemi, of Finland, as Brad Stuart, 7, and Justin Braun, 61, check Canucks Daniel Sedin.
San Jose Sharks’ Jason Demers, centre, and Vancouver Canucks’ Brad Richardson vie for the puck as Sharks’ Matt Nieto, left, and Joe Pavelski, right, look on.
Chris Higgins #20 of the Vancouver Canucks and Logan Couture #39 of the San Jose Sharks eye the puck.
Vancouver Canucks’ left winger David Booth (7) tries to break past San Jose Sharks’ centre Joe Pavelski (8) and left winger James Sheppard (15).
Vancouver Canucks’ defenceman Dan Hamhuis (2) breaks away behind San Jose Sharks’ right winger Marty Havlat (9).
Vancouver Canucks’ defenceman Dan Hamhuis (2) breaks away behind San Jose Sharks’ right winger Marty Havlat (9).
Jeremy Welsh (right) of the Vancouver Canucks vies for the puck with Los Angeles Kings forward Trevor Lewis during the third period of their Nov. 9, 2013 NHL game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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