The Canucks had a chance to clinch a playoff spot on Thursday night in Dallas, but after an ugly third period marked by poor defense and sloppy passing, Vancouver will have to wait until at least Saturday to do so.
Things seemed to start out fine. Then they got sloppy. I mean…real sloppy.
The first period proved to be rather uneventful, with neither team scoring. Cory Schneider found himself dealing with a few tricky rebounds and deflections early on in the period. Vancouver had their fair share of chances on net as well, especially towards the end of the period. The Canucks were able to outshoot the Stars 12-10 in the opening period. They also carried the edge on hits 16-10, a promising sign after taking a beating in St. Louis. The added intensity in the final minutes of the period was also a plus after playing relatively flat until that point.
At 6:38 in the second period, former Star Derek Roy came up with a turnover leading to the first goal of the game to give Vancouver a 1-0 lead off Roy’s backhand shot. Halfway through the period, the Canucks held a 10-1 shot advantage in the period.
The Stars got their first power play of the game at 10:03. At the end of the advantage, Alex Edler found himself without a stick. The Stars were able to take advantage as Maxim Lappierre tried to help coming out of the penalty box. Vern Fiddler beat Schneider for his fourth goal of the year to tie it up at one goal each. The goal came six seconds after the end of the power play, extending the Canucks penalty kill streak to 28.
The Canucks penalty killing had been real strong lately, but there was simply too much pressure on the Canucks while only three skaters had a stick. With 10 seconds left in the period and the Canucks shorthanded, Schneider was saved by the post and Andrew Alberts sweeping the puck away to keep the game tied heading into the final period.
Then, things went downhill, and downhill fast.
The Stars wasted no time coming out of the locker room to start the third period. After Aaron Rome was able to block a centering pass, Cody Eakin beat Schneider with a wrist shot on the other end of the ice to give the Stars a 2-1 lead just 1:36 into the final stanza. Three minutes later, Keith Ballard over-skated a drop pass from Alex Burrows. Jamie Benn capitalized with a goal to extend the Stars’ lead to 3-1. Ray Whitney added to the lead another three minutes later with a rebound goal as things went from bad to worse for the Canucks. Erik Cole added one more for good measure with 1:42 left in the game as the Stars went on to win 5-1. Cole’s goal snapped Vancouver’s streak of penalties killed off at 30 in a row.
Schneider stopped 25 shots on the night, with most of those saves coming before the third period in which he seemed to lose focus. Kari Lehtonen returned between the pipes for the Stars after missing three games with a groin injury, stopping 37 shots.
The Canucks return home to face the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night. The game should prove to be a good test as Vancouver faces a desperate Detroit team trying to save its’ 21-year playoff streak that could come to an end this season. With one team trying to clinch a playoff spot and another fighting for theirs, it’ll be a game you won’t want to miss.