The Vancouver Canucks could have been home and cooled off.
They could have woken up in their beds Sunday morning, had a much-needed day of rest, and watched the Red Wings and Sharks continue to battle it out – hoping their series is as long and as gruelling as possible.
But the Canucks seem to want to do things the hard way these playoffs, squandering a chance to close out the Nashville Predators in a 4-3 Game 5 loss at Rogers Arena Saturday night and forcing themselves into another cross-continental flight to the deep south.
“We gotta go back,” said Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault after the game.
“We spent a lot of time in their end, we battled real hard in that second period and obviously in the third – it’s a game of mistakes – and we made two and they made us pay for it.”
It was actually three mistakes that cost the Canucks on this night.
Daniel Sedin coughed up a puck early and David Legwand scored his first of two on a short-handed breakaway. A Kevin Bieksa turnover led to a Joel Ward goal in the third period, and Ward’s second of the night – the winning goal – was scored after Alex Edler whiffed on a clearance attempt.
Ryan Kesler added another two goals to his now torrent pace, and Raffi Torres scored his first of the playoffs, but the Predators did just enough to win the game and send the series back to Tennessee.
“It’s no problem for us, we like their building,” said Captain Henrik Sedin. “It’s been good to us the last couple of games. We can’t expect to beat these guys easily.”
For the twins, nothing has been easy of late. Despite some strong play in the offensive zone, the Sedins still aren’t producing like the Art Ross Trophy winners they are. Worse yet, their defensive zone coverage continues to suffer, with Daniel going minus-4 on the night and Henrik not far behind with a minus-3.
“It’s frustrating, we’ve been in this place before but tonight I think we battled hard” said Henrik.
The Sedin twins now have the lowest +/- in the playoffs among forwards with a minus-7 apiece. Should the Canucks get past the Preds, they will be needed if Vancouver is to have a chance against the likes of San Jose or Detroit.
Vancouver is also the most-travelled team in these playoffs, and just made the road to the Stanley Cup that much bumpier with a Game 5 loss. Every Stanley Cup winning team of the past has dispatched a playoff opponent in either four or five games and given themselves time to rest and heal their wounds.
The Canucks now have no such chance, and are beginning to feel the brunt of the long playoff haul. Mikael Samuelsson will not be joining the team on the trip to Nashville after suffering a lower-body injury in the second period. It appeared Samuelsson twisted a knee pursuing a puck and crumpled to the ice, unable to skate.
But most troubling on the night was the lack of killer instinct shown by this Canucks team.
Vancouver has now given life to another team in these playoffs with their inability to close out a series: something that will now be even more difficult to do in a Bridgestone Arena packed with yellow-shirted Preds fans.
“It’s not easy to finish off a team,” said Vigneault. “We’re going to get another opportunity in Game 6.”
“I expect our whole group to be better. Obviously there are a couple players who need to be better and we will address that tomorrow.”