Derick Brassard of the Columbus Blue Jackets attempts to deflect a shot while goaltender Cory Schneider of the Vancouver Canucks makes a save during the first period on March 7, 2013 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
Photograph by: Jamie Sabau, NHLI via Getty Images
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Maybe the Vancouver Canucks aren't what they think they are.
They fancy themselves among the elite of the National Hockey League but maybe they are nothing more than a .500 team, especially playing with only two experienced centres and one true right-side defenceman as long as Kevin Bieksa remains out.
The Canucks looked anything but a contender here Thursday as they were beaten 2-1 in overtime by the Columbus Blue Jackets, who entered the night last overall in the NHL standings. Matt Calvert netted the winner on Cory Schneider at 4:03 of the extra period as Vancouver’s defensive-zone coverage evaporated and Calvert was able to walk into the slot and beat Schneider.
The loss was Vancouver’s third straight and its fifth in the last six games (1-3-2). It seems only a matter of time until someone in the Northwest Division rises up and knocks the Canucks out of the division lead. Since their six-game winning streak, they have won three of 11 games.
In 23 games, they have won 11 times. In nine games that have gone beyond regulation, they have won three times. What is elite about this?
“You’d like to think this is just one time in the season where things aren’t going right for you,” suggested Canuck winger Chris Higgins, grasping at straws. “One goal is not going to win on too many nights. We expect to score more than one with the talent we have on this team. It’s frustrating. Our last 10 games before this, we were 3-4-3 and that’s unacceptable and not where we expect to be at this point.”
After a flat 40 minutes in which there was little emotion or hitting, the Canucks conjured up an early third-period goal by Henrik Sedin to pull even at 1-1.
The Canucks had just seven hits through two periods and were unable to draw a single penalty to even test their slumbering power play. Henrik finally drew one midway through the third period — holding by Fedor Tyutin — but the extra-man attack came up empty, extending its drought to 16 straight.
The power play also had three opportunities Tuesday to produce a go-ahead goal against San Jose. It failed then, too. Canuck head coach Alain Vigneault likes to call them pressure moments and, when the pressure has been on lately, it’s been the opponent coming through with the clutch goal or large save, not the Canucks.
“Well, we were down by a goal and we tied it,” Vigneault said, trying to find a silver lining. “But, at the end of the day, I’m looking at tonight’s game, and the last three that we played and, in my opinion, we played good enough to win but we didn’t. So, obviously, that’s not good enough. The game is about finding ways to win and getting that extra you need in these key moments where a player can make a difference.”
Jannik Hansen, the hottest Canuck of late, had a chance to be the difference-maker Thursday on a clear-cut short-handed breakaway with 4:49 left in regulation time but couldn’t beat Columbus netminder Sergei Bobrovsky. He admitted post-game he never released the shot he wanted.
“I missed it completely,” he sighed. “I was trying to put it up under the bar but I put it in the middle of the net in his glove. You’re not going to score a lot of goals that way.”
Henrik Sedin again blamed the power play, which he quarterbacks, for the lack of recent results. The Canucks were 0-for-1 Thursday.
“We’re losing points because our power play isn’t good enough and that’s tough to take,” lamented the captain. “A lot of these games we have lost lately, we had the game on our sticks. We get a power play late, we get a chance to get a win a game late or in overtime and we haven’t done it.”
Henrik said he understood if the team’s fan base was upset the Canucks were unable to subdue hockey’s bottom-feeders. It’s the usual response after an unexpected loss.
“Yeah, that’s fair,” he nodded. “It’s a hockey market and people are going to talk. That’s fine. I think people maybe don’t give credit to other teams. The whole league has shown there is a lot of parity and it’s tough to get wins. We knew it was going to be this way. Teams at .500 are right in it. It’s going to be a tight race until the end.”
The Canucks fell behind 1-0 midway through the opening period as one-time Canuck draft pick R.J. Umberger banged home a Nick Foligno wraparound attempt that hit the iron and bounced directly to him.
Bobrovsky finished with 34 saves for the Blue Jackets, none bigger than the one on Hansen. Columbus has won three straight. Schneider stopped 25 of the 27 shots he faced. His personal record slipped to 6-4-3.
The Jackets played most of the game with 11 forwards as feisty winger Derek Dorsett was injured on his first shift – it was later announced as a broken clavicle – on a hit by Andrew Alberts. Dorsett played just 18 seconds.
ICE CHIPS: The Canucks are scheduled to practise Friday in Columbus and then travel Saturday to Minnesota for Sunday’s date with the Wild ... Vancouver again lost the faceoff battle at 47 per cent (29-for-62). Henrik Sedin was 9-for-22, Mason Raymond 4-for-10 and Jordan Schroeder 3-for-9. Max Lapierre topped the Canucks at 11-for-19 ... Artem Anisimov and Derek MacKenzie were a combined 19-for-27 in the dot for Columbus.
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