Miller puts an end to Canucks' losing streak

 

 
 
 
 
Vancouver Canucks’ goalie Ryan Miller, right, watches the puck as Alex Burrows reaches for it during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Colorado Avalanche in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday February 21, 2016.
 
 

Vancouver Canucks’ goalie Ryan Miller, right, watches the puck as Alex Burrows reaches for it during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Colorado Avalanche in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday February 21, 2016.

Photograph by: DARRYL DYCK, THE CANADIAN PRESS

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VANCOUVER — The best news for the Vancouver Canucks is the last time they ended a home losing streak this long, they won 11 straight games at Rogers Arena.

So, there’s 10 more home wins coming. And the Canucks may need most of them after Sunday’s 5-1 victory against the Colorado Avalanche still left Vancouver seven points adrift in the National Hockey League playoff race. An 0-5-1 home losing streak in February will do that to you.

It took a brilliant night from goalie Ryan Miller to key the end of the Canucks’ worst spell in Vancouver since an 0-6-3 slump was snapped on Feb. 3, 2009.

Miller made 37 saves, all the toughest ones when his team was being outplayed in the first two periods, as the Canucks beat the Avalanche for the second time in two weeks to prop up their fading playoff hopes.

“I wouldn’t want to have to do that every night, but if we’re going to get this thing going in the right direction, we have to have that kind of effort,” Miller said after losing his shutout on a contentious goal by Matt Duchene in the final minute. “Everyone has got to be doing it. The boys played hard tonight.”

“If we would have lost tonight, I think Millsy might have retired,” Canuck captain Henrik Sedin said after a four-assist night. “The amount of saves he made. . . it was not a 5-1 game. We know that. We know we have to be better. We get to sit on this for a few days and practise and enjoy it. Tonight, we can look at the standings.”

The Canucks have 58 points in 59 games and are still as likely to win the draft lottery as make the Stanley Cup playoffs. With 66 points from 62 games, the Avalanche holds the first of two wildcard spots in the Western Conference. But everyone has games in-hand on Colorado, which has been hurt by losing twice to the Canucks this month.

In the first period alone, Miller made five-star saves against Nathan MacKinnon, Carl Soderberg and John Mitchell, and a four-star stop against Duchene after an early turnover by Ben Hutton. Outshot 11-8 – and outchanced by a far greater margin – the Canucks should have trailed after one period but made it to the intermission ahead 2-0 on goals by Adam Cracknell and Jannik Hansen.

Cracknell collected teammate Emerson Etem’s shot above the Colorado crease, outwaited goalie Semyon Varlamov and scored for the second straight game, making it 1-0 at 8:31. Hansen doubled the lead at 18:46, looping unchecked into the slot between all five Colorado skaters and one-timing Daniel Sedin’s saucer pass past Varlamov.

“Ryan saved us in a lot of games where maybe we didn’t play as well but we ended up winning,” Cracknell said. “So it was nice to give him a five-goal cushion.

“I think tonight we played with a lot more passion and grit. We had a lot of support around the puck and didn’t turn it over as much. All our goals was just about going to the net hard and creating traffic and we got rewarded. That’s something we’ve got to learn from this.”

The Avalanche poured 16 shots on Miller in the second period and still the goalie would not be beaten.

He twice stopped Jarome Iginla from close range before making the save of the game late in the period on Erik Johnson, getting a toe on the defenceman’s one-timer from the hashmarks to thwart a Colorado 4-on-3.

That kept it 2-0, so when long, lost Radim Vrbata scored on a power-play rebound at 19:55, the Canucks were ahead by three goals.

Hansen continued his career-best season by scoring his 19th to make it 4-0 at 9:09 of the third period, redirecting Danny Sedin’s pass on a 2-on-1. On the next shift, with 10½ minutes remaining, Avalanche coach Patrick Roy pulled Varlamov for an extra attacker. And at 11:37, Canuck Chris Tanev scored into an the empty net.

None of the Canucks had ever seen anything in the NHL like Roy’s move.

“I know in the European League, way back, a Norwegian team pulled the goalie first shift of the last period,” Hank Sedin recalled. “They were down 6-0 and they came back and tied it 6-6, then lost 7-6 in the last minute.”

Sedin had to be reminded about the winning streak the Canucks went on in 2009 to rush into the playoffs.

“If we could do that again, that would be nice,” Hansen said. “But again, it’s one game at a time. We still wasn’t pretty tonight. Millsy had – I don’t want to say four or five because they could be cutting it short – but he had a lot of very big saves where we were caught out of position or they were glaring down on an empty net almost. And he finds a way to come up with a save. This game could very easily have been a 5-4, 6-5 game if not for him.”

Yeah, and for the Avalanche.

ICE CHIPS — One of the Canucks’ prime trading chips, Vrbata limped to the dressing room after falling awkwardly early in the third period. He appeared to hurt his ankle or knee. The NHL trading deadline is next Monday.

THE DEBRIEF

Ryan Miller had a brilliant 37-save performance and the Canucks their biggest night offensively in 2½ months as Vancouver built an early two-goal lead and beat the Avalanche 5-1. Jannik Hansen scored twice, and Vancouver also got goals from Adam Cracknell, Radim Vrbata and Chris Tanev. Matt Duchene scored in the final minute for Colorado, which outshot Vancouver 27-19 in the first two periods.

HOMELY

The Canucks ended a 0-5-1 home winless streak, their worst slump at Rogers Arena since Alain Vigneault’s team went 0-6-3 at the start of 2009. Vancouver’s rookie GM back then, Mike Gillis, failed to cave to pressure to fire his coach, and the Canucks won their next 11 games at home. In the seven years that followed, Vancouver never went more than three home games without a win -- until this losing streak.

BY THE NUMBERS

Vrbata’s goal broke a 14-game drought for the winger who scored 31 times last season. With the NHL trade deadline one week away, Vrbata limped to the dressing room in the third period after falling awkwardly. . . Blocks were 14-2 for Vancouver. . . Although he has scored only five times this season, Cracknell is on a two-game goals streak for the second time. He also led everyone with five hits. . . Bo Horvat was 14-7 on faceoffs.

DID YOU NOTICE

With his team down by four goals, Avalanche coach Patrick Roy pulled goalie Semyon Varlamov with 10½ minutes remaining. None of the Canucks who were canvassed had ever seen anything like it. On Nov. 25, 1998, Canuck coach Mike Keenan pulled his goalie twice in the middle of the third period during a 5-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was widely viewed as a stunt to embarrass GM Brian Burke for not providing the coach better players.

NEXT UP

After three games in four nights, the Canucks have three days to prepare for Thursday’s home game against the Ottawa Senators, who open their three-game Western Canadian trip Tuesday in Edmonton. The Senators won 3-2 in a shootout Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings, their third straight win. The Canucks lost 3-2 in Ottawa on Nov. 12 during a 1-4-2 road trip.

 
 
 
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Vancouver Canucks’ goalie Ryan Miller, right, watches the puck as Alex Burrows reaches for it during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Colorado Avalanche in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday February 21, 2016.
 

Vancouver Canucks’ goalie Ryan Miller, right, watches the puck as Alex Burrows reaches for it during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Colorado Avalanche in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday February 21, 2016.

Photograph by: DARRYL DYCK, THE CANADIAN PRESS

 
Vancouver Canucks’ goalie Ryan Miller, right, watches the puck as Alex Burrows reaches for it during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Colorado Avalanche in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday February 21, 2016.
Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov, second left, of Russia, stands on the bench with teammates Tyson Barrie, from left, Chris Bigras and Nick Holden after being taken off the ice for an extra skater midway through the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Vancouver Canucks in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday February 21, 2016.
Vancouver Canucks’ goalie Ryan Miller, third left, stops Colorado Avalanche’s Jarome Iginla (12) as Jared McCann, left, and Dan Hamhuis, right, defend during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday February 21, 2016.
Colorado Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy stands on the bench during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Vancouver Canucks in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday February 21, 2016.
Vancouver Canucks’ head coach Willie Desjardins stands on the bench during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Colorado Avalanche in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday February 21, 2016.
Vancouver Canucks’ Radim Vrbata (17), of the Czech Republic, scores against Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov, second right, of Russia, as Carl Soderberg (34), of Sweden, Francois Beauchemin (32) and Erik Johnson, centre, and Canucks’ Sven Baertschi, top left, of Switzerland, and Daniel Sedin, right, of Sweden, look on during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday February 21, 2016.
Vancouver Canucks’ Jannik Hansen, right, of Denmark, scores against Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov, of Russia, during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday February 21, 2016.
Vancouver Canucks’ Adam Cracknell celebrates what would have been his second goal before it was turned over upon review, during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Colorado Avalanche in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday February 21, 2016.
The puck enters the net behind Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov, right, of Russia, off the glove of Vancouver Canucks’ Adam Cracknell, back left, while being checked by Colorado’s Chris Bigras (3) and Andrew Bodnarchuk (41) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday February 21, 2016. After being reviewed it was ruled no goal due to being directed into the net with a hand.
Vancouver Canucks’ Adam Cracknell celebrates his goal against the Colorado Avalanche during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday February 21, 2016.
Vancouver Canucks’ Ben Hutton, right, checks Colorado Avalanche’s Matt Duchene during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday February 21, 2016.
Vancouver Canucks’ Derek Dorsett, right, checks Colorado Avalanche’s Gabriel Landeskog, of Sweden, during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday February 21, 2016.
Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov, of Russia, is struck in the chest by a shot during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Vancouver Canucks in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday February 21, 2016.
Vancouver Canucks’ goalie Ryan Miller, right, stops Colorado Avalanche’s Nick Holden during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday February 21, 2016.
Colorado Avalanche’s Gabriel Landeskog, left, of Sweden, knocks down the puck as Vancouver Canucks’ Ben Hutton tries to clear it during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday February 21, 2016.
Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov, of Russia, lies on the ice after allowing a goal to Vancouver Canucks’ Radim Vrbata, of the Czech Republic, during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday February 21, 2016.
Vancouver Canucks’ goalie Ryan Miller watches the puck during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Colorado Avalanche in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday February 21, 2016.
Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov, of Russia, makes a save against the Vancouver Canucks during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday February 21, 2016.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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