Nine goals against. Did that really just happen?
The task at hand was daunting even before the puck was even dropped — the Anaheim Ducks are currently the hottest team in the league and have only lost two games on home ice (both in overtime) — but it has been almost a decade since the Vancouver Canucks have surrendered nine goals in one game.
Prior to Wednesday’s loss, the Canucks played one of their best games of the season against the Los Angeles Kings. They lost 1-0 but were applauded by many for what was seen as standing up for themselves and enacting revenge on the team that has knocked them out of the playoffs many times and recently injured star goaltender Roberto Luongo.
The team that played Monday against LA was one that Canucks fans have not seen for a long time. They killed all seven penalties — Chris Tanev played a team-high 9:14 shorthanded that game — and the Canucks had many offensive chances, played physically and dominated in faceoffs. It was an all-around good game, despite the fact that the Canucks could not put the puck in the net.
Wednesday was vastly different. The Canucks had a lot of penalty minutes against LA (69), but had even more against Anaheim (73). While they have one of the league’s top penalty kills, they allowed six power-play goals against Anaheim (none against LA).
The last (and only other) time the Canucks have done this was almost 30 years ago, on Nov. 29, 1984.
The Canucks were missing several players in the last seven minutes of the game, allowing the Ducks to score two more power-play goals. Zack Kassian, Jannik Hansen, Tom Sestito and later Kevin Bieksa were awarded 10-minute misconducts. Dale Weise and Zac Dalpe sat in the box to serve what was a seven minute 5-on-3 for the Ducks and were joined by Jason Garrison, who took a slashing penalty with just over a minute left in the game — a call that even the commentators were shocked by, as the Ducks were already up 8-1 and the game was nearly over.
It was a tough night for the goalies as well. With Luongo still injured, Eddie Lack started in net, but after allowing three goals on 13 shots he was replaced by Joacim Ericsson. This was Ericsson’s NHL debut — something he’d likely rather forget, as he allowed six goals against. Five of the Ducks’ six power-play goals were scored on Ericsson. The Canucks’ sole goal of the game came late in the second period on a power play by Kassian. David Booth and Alex Edler gathered the assists.
The team that played with determination and fight against the Kings quickly dissipated within the first few minutes of Wednesday’s game. The Canucks went from playing one of their best games of the season to possibly their worst 48 hours later. Fans applauded the way the Canucks played against LA with fights and physical play, but this strategy got out of hand against Anaheim.
“There was a lot of frustration on their part,” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau told the Associated Press. “They just started punching our guys. It wasn’t the brightest thing to do. What are the refs supposed to do? … It was just an unfortunate game for Vancouver. I’m sure their next opponent is going to pay for that.”
Maybe the Canucks should stick to playing hockey and trying to score goals. This rough stuff may have worked for them once, but as seen against Anaheim, it can and will cost them a lot. It’s hard to win when you spend a lot of your time shorthanded.
“It got away from us,” Vancouver captain Henrik Sedin said. “I’ve had a lot of disappointing losses. This was up there, but this was not a 9-1 game. This was not a 6-1 game. They had eight or nine minutes of 5-on-3. They’re going to score when they get that.”
Of course, there was more that contributed to the loss than just the penalties. The Canucks, for some reason, could not score; their goalies, with Luongo injured, are very new to the NHL game; they are missing a key piece up front with Alex Burrows still injured as well; and as Sedin told The Province, they “didn’t have the mindset.” There was no jump or determination or will to win in the game.
The Canucks play the Phoenix Coyotes Thursday in the last of a three-game road trip. So far, they have one win in 2014.