Blackhawks snap Canucks five-game road streak, 3-1

 

 
 
 
 
Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks scores a third period goal past Eddie Lack #31 of the Vancouver Canucks at the United Center on April 2, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Canucks 3-1.
 

Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks scores a third period goal past Eddie Lack #31 of the Vancouver Canucks at the United Center on April 2, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Canucks 3-1.

Photograph by: Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images

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CHICAGO – The only way goalie Ryan Miller might have helped the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday was if he could work the point on the power play or otherwise find a way to score.

The Canucks were beaten 3-1 by the Chicago Blackhawks, who clinched a National Hockey League playoff spot and ended Vancouver’s five-game road winning streak. Goaltending was not the Canucks’ problem.

Eddie Lack made 35 saves and on the three shots that beat him, one was a breakaway, one was a carom off the post and his back, and one was when the goalie lost his stick and ended up the creek without a paddle.

The two biggest saves of the game were made by Blackhawk goalie Corey Crawford, who stopped Yannick Weber and Nick Bonino on point-blank chances around the time Jonathan Toews and Markus Kruger were scoring goals 2 1/2 minutes apart midway through the third period of what until then was a 1-1 game.

News that Miller, the Canuck starter who hasn’t played since spraining knee ligaments Feb. 22, was rejoining the team for today’s practice in Winnipeg created a lot of chatter outside the team.

But for now, it changes nothing on the Canucks, who played well without him but just weren’t good enough on Thursday to beat the Blackhawks.

The team hopes that Miller might be able to play a home game late next week, although Canuck coach Willie Desjardins gave no indication Thursday that will occur.

“Nah, I can’t say that,” Desjardins said. “Our whole focus is to try to get in the playoffs and we’ll just go with whatever we think we can get in with.”

He meant “whoever.” He meant Lack, who has gone 10-5-2 since Miller was injured on Long Island and is a key reason the Canucks could afford to lose Thursday’s game.

The team spent a little of the house money they won by opening its difficult four-game road trip with back-to-back wins against the Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues earlier in the week. But with the Calgary Flames’ 4-1 loss Thursday to the Blues, the Canucks’ lead in the race for second in the Pacific Division is still four points with four games to go.

The Canucks play the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday afternoon. And, yes, Eddie Lack will be the starter.

“I felt like we’ve been playing good,” Lack said. “At the beginning of the stretch (without Miller), we had a lot of guys gone. We still were able to pull out some wins.”

Accustomed to practising with Miller and sitting next to him in the dressing room, Lack said he was looking forward to having his teammate back around the team. Miller has been practising solo in Vancouver.

“He’s a veteran, he’s been around,” Canuck captain Henrik Sedin said of the 34-year-old goalie. “I think he has a calming influence on this team. He’s been great all year. It’s going to be good having him around. We’ll see where he’s at.”

Sedin said sweeping the Predators and Blues has eased some of the playoff-race pressure on the Canucks.

“Of course,” he said. “I don’t think we feel that way, but I’m not standing here talking about being outside the playoffs right now. So that’s a good thing. We have a big one coming up (against Winnipeg).

“I thought we played well. We could have won the game; that was the feeling I had. But scoring one is not going to help you.”

The coach wasn’t as happy with the Canucks’ effort as their captain.

But Desjardins praised his team for staying in the game, tied 1-1 until Blackhawk Johnny Oduya’s point shot struck the crossbar, hit Lack’s back and was, apparently pushed over the goal-line by Toews at 8:04 of the third period.

“It’s a big game, we should be able to find a way,” Desjardins said. “I think our energy level should have been higher. I don’t think we should have had any reason not to be going. For whatever reason, we weren’t at the top, but I thought we battled hard. We just couldn’t pull it out.”

Kruger clinched it on a breakaway at 10:31, beating Lack on a backhand deke after Canuck rookie Bo Horvat’s turnover in the neutral zone trapped his team.

“They clogged it up pretty good, but I had a chance to chip it by him,” Horvat said. “It was just an unfortunate play I made. I didn’t help things.”

Derek Dorsett, with a finish that was as astonishing as Michal Roszival’s giveaway that preceded it, tied it 1-1 for the Canucks at 18:46 of the first period after Blackhawk Teuvo Teravainen beat a stick-less Lack to open scoring at 6:51.

“We missed a few and their guy (Crawford) made a lot of saves,” Weber said after leading everyone with eight shots. “And then their second goal was a lucky bounce off the crossbar. They got a bounce and we didn’t; that was the difference tonight.”

Vancouver’s practice today in Winnipeg will be the Canucks’ first in nine days. It has been nearly six weeks for Miller.

GAME ESSENTIALS

THE DEBRIEF

The Canucks hung in against the faster, fresher Blackhawks for 48 minutes, but surrendered third-period goals 2:27 apart to Jonathan Toews and Markus Kruger as Vancouver lost for the first time in six road games. Chicago clinched a playoff spot with the win, their first in three tries against Vancouver this season, but needed two huge saves from goalie Corey Crawford early in the third. Canuck Derek Dorsett and Blackhawk Teuvo Teravainen traded first-period goals.

BY THE NUMBERS

The Canucks were blown out in the faceoff circle again, outdrawn 41-22 by the Blackhawks. Kruger and Toews each went 13-6, while Canuck Henrik Sedin was 5-13 ... Vancouver outhit Chicago 26-14 ... Canuck defenceman Yannick Weber led everyone with seven shots ... The Bo Horvat-Ronalds Kenins-Jannik Hansen line was minus-two for Vancouver ... Dorsett became the eighth Canuck forward to score on the road trip.

TEMPER TEMPER

One game after playing short-handed for 13:59 in Nashville, the Canucks took only four penalties against the Hawks, one of them for too many men. Coach Willie Desjardins called his six-player leadership group together Thursday to emphasize the need for discipline. After yelling at a linesman in Nashville, Desjardins said he, too, needed to be better. “I was out of line,” he said. “I was wrong and I was fortunate we didn’t get a penalty out of it.”

LINE DANCE

Desjardins went with the same lineup a sixth straight game. No one was happier to play than Alex Burrows who avoided a suspension after Tuesday’s major penalty for knocking down Paul Gaustad. “I was relieved for sure,” Burrows said. “I never meant to hurt him or anything. But you never know. You could watch 10 clips and some guys would say it’s a suspension, some guys would say it’s not. So you’re always hoping you get on the lucky side.”

QUOTEBOOK

“They had more chances than we did tonight throughout the game. We were there, but they were better than we were tonight. They outplayed us. They took it to us pretty good. We stayed in it, which is good. (But) they deserved what they got.” — Canucks’ coach Willie Desjardin.

imacintyre@vancouversun.com

Twitter.com/imacvansun

 
 
 
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Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks scores a third period goal past Eddie Lack #31 of the Vancouver Canucks at the United Center on April 2, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Canucks 3-1.
 

Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks scores a third period goal past Eddie Lack #31 of the Vancouver Canucks at the United Center on April 2, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Canucks 3-1.

Photograph by: Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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