Vancouver Canucks captain Henrik Sedin, right, is stopped in the final seconds of the third period.
Photograph by: Ric Ernst, PNG
VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Canucks put three pucks in the net behind Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen on Sunday. But since one was pushed in from behind by Brad Richardson when the net tilted forward on its pegs, we'll say the Canucks scored twice.
Referee Rob Martell, however, thought only one goal was good, and for the struggling Canucks one goal isn't enough. The Stars beat them 2-1 as the Canucks' scoring crisis worsened and Vancouver slipped three points out of a National Hockey League playoff spot with their fourth straight loss.
Martell's disallowance of Henrik Sedin's second-period goal was a huge talking point. And so it should be because the referee's call of goalie contact by Daniel Sedin looked shockingly bad, and the NHL doesn't review this kind of thing.
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But it wasn't Martell who failed, as Sedin did, to get the puck around Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen's pad in the final seconds. And it was the Canuck captain, not the referee, who pulled up on a partial breakaway and made a spinning, blind, reverse pass to nobody. It was Vancouver winger Alex Burrows who deflected the puck off the post late in the second period, and Ryan Kesler who couldn't stuff it past Lehtonen from close range early in the third.
The Canucks outshot the Stars 43-23 and, according to coach John Tortorella, generated at least 20 scoring chances. It wasn't Martell's fault that for a fourth straight game Vancouver couldn't score more than one goal, only that the Canucks didn't score when Sedin fired in a rebound at 6:42 of the second period.
Good teams take the game out of the officials' uncertain hands. In their worst four-game, regular-season scoring slump since 2006, the Canucks set themselves up to lose on one bad call. And they did.
“I don't think any one play determines a win and a loss,” Tortorella, as livid as we have seen him this season when Sedin's apparent tying goal was ruled off, told reporters. “But I think … we need to get that call right. A goal or disallowed goal, it's a big play in the game. If you can review that, I think you get the call right. But it's unreviewable. All the crap we review and don't review an important thing like that, I just think that needs to change. It's the wrong call. It's the wrong call.”
Tortorella continued: “I'm not going to whine about this and that. It's a huge call that was the wrong call, but that doesn't determine the winning and the losing of the hockey game. I just think it really has to open up the league's eyes about getting those plays right. Some of the other nonsense we review? Get the goals and goals-against right. I will say, if you don't see it, don't call it. You have to be sure on that play and I just don't think they were sure. It was the wrong call.”
“I don't think I did anything,” Daniel said. “It's the wrong call. It's frustrating at the time, with the chances we had today, it shouldn't be the difference. But it is.”
He's right. It shouldn't have been the difference.
Starting with an opening-minute breakaway by Henrik – if the playmaking Sedin were ever going to score a NHL hat trick, this would have been the night – the Canucks had numerous grade-A scoring chances.
But they chased the game all night after easily surrendering Valeri Nichuskin's first-period goal and Erik Cole's marker on a 2-on-1 that made it 2-0 at 1:42 of the third period. Henrik finally scored on a power-play rebound 88 seconds later.
When they score only once, the Canucks are 0-8-1 this season. Yes, they've hit that low-water mark nine times in 22 games. When they score two or more goals, they are 11-0-2.
So Vancouver doesn't need a lot to win. But the Canucks haven't counted to two on the scoreboard since beating the San Jose Sharks 4-2 11 days ago.
“It's very frustrating because we're losing points,” Hank Sedin said. “We've seen our division and the way teams are getting points right now. You can't have a bad week or two weeks or you're going to lose ground. But we've got to look at the way we've played: We're outshooting teams 2-1, we're getting chances, hitting posts. We've got to keep going. We can't lose faith in what we're doing here.”
The last time the Canucks' attack went this quiet, they lost the 2011 Stanley Cup final to the Boston Bruins. The last time they had a four-game offensive output this feeble in the regular season, Alain Vigneault was in his first season as the Canucks' coach.
But they actually won one of those games, 1-0 against the Columbus Blue Jackets, when Vigneault famously began to giggle when asked in his post-game press conference how Matt Cooke managed to put himself offside while carrying the puck on a 2-on-1.
No one on the Canucks is laughing at the moment.
Vigneault brought out the shooter tutor, when it was a training apparatus instead of an actual person, and laid a bench across the bottom of the net during practice, forcing players to elevate their shots.
Tortorella has one day with which to work before the Florida Panthers visit on Tuesday. And thank goodness the Blue Jackets are in Vancouver on Friday.
“I think the biggest thing, as far as coaches, is we need to relax our guys,” Tortorella said. “I think they care so much, when it's not going in they'll grip it even tighter. I like our effort, I like what the team is doing. I believe we'll get out of this and we'll win some hockey games by scoring some goals.”
Unfortunately, there's no other way to win them.
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