In each of the three prior games, the Canucks were able to answer whatever the defending champs threw their way. Even in Sunday’s 3-2 overtime loss, they took just 37 seconds to answer the Blues first lead of the series. On Monday they couldn’t find the answer in regulation and within 48 hours, their 2-0 series lead is no more.
Ryan O’Reilly’s goal to open the scoring 16:43 into the first came on the Blues second power play of a first period in which St. Louis rendered themselves shorthanded three times in the game’s opening 14 minutes. Unable to collect there, Vancouver managed to even up the score 40 seconds into the second period on a J.T. Miller tip of an Alex Edler shot. The Blues, fresh off their overtime winner, still searching for a lasting lead inside regulation. But a troubling second period that saw Vancouver surrender 17 shots on goal culminated in a pair of St. Louis goals–O’Reilly’s second of the game and third of the postseason 6:52 into the second; and Alex Pietrangelo 15:47 for the Blues’ second power play tally on the night, the tail-end of a five-on-three opportunity.
While the Canucks had no answer for the Blues or parts of their power play, scoring twice on five opportunities; they did see their own seven opportunities on the advantage fail to produce a goal after going 6-for-11 through games 1-3. Now, Vancouver, who seemed to have all the momentum in the 48 hours prior to Sunday, need something: An answer.
“It’s the best-of-seven for a reason,” Miller, the Canucks lone-goal scorer on Monday night said. “We played a hard back-to-back against the Stanley Cup champs. We knew it was a tall task. We were a shot away from going up 3-0. Tonight, it was 1-1 five-on-five. It’s not like we’re getting our butts whopped up and down the rink. They’re a good team, we’re a good team. It’s going to be a hard, long series. We signed up for that.”
Vancouver’s penalty kill, which entered the night with 9 kills on 11 attempts, found poor timing to allow two goals for the first time since their 3-0 qualifying round loss to the Wild.
“Throughout the series we’ve killed pretty well,” Canucks defenseman, Chris Tanev said. “We’re gonna keep doing the same things and be confident out there when we’re shorthanded.”
It was, the penalties more than the kill-quality that ultimately put Vancouver in trouble. After an early goal in the second, they took three-straight infractions.
“We came out with the right mindset–we tied it up,” Miller said. “We started taking a lot of penalties against a really good power play with some good players.”
For Canucks head coach, Travis Green, it was the ups and downs of the special teams that went against Vancouver on Monday.
“Their (St. Louis’) power play had 13-14 shots,” Green said. “This was a tight game. Power play’s were the difference tonight, much like early in the series when we won.”
Also costly was the second period penalty trouble, which forced Vancouver’s defense to “play tired” and chase for much of the 20 minutes.
“It wasn’t very good in the second period,” Green said on his team’s puck management. “For a young team, I think sometimes we fall into that trap, especially in the second periods. There’s a lot more trapping because it’s harder to change. I thought the first period, we started how we wanted to.
“We turned it over in the second period for sure. I thought we broke the puck out a lot better in first period than we did (Sunday), it wasn’t so much that we weren’t breaking it out, we got to the end of a shift some times and had to defend tired in the second period which is always a recipe for bad things to happen.”
Vancouver and St. Louis, now even at two games apiece, will try and gain some control on momentum in a series that has been hard to get some, when the puck drops on game five Wednesday night.