After perhaps their best effort of the season on Monday night against the conference-leading Chicago Blackhawks, the Vancouver Canucks came out flat against the Anaheim Ducks at Rogers Arena on Thursday night, falling 3-1 in their final home game of the regular season.
The first period proved to be rather uneventful between the two squads who had already locked up their respective playoff seeds. Roberto Luongo, back in net in place of the injured Cory Schneider, faced 11 shots in the opening period, but only a few proved to be legitimate scoring chances. The Canucks were able to get one shift with the first line where they finally put some pressure on Jonas Hiller with a few good chances on net. The Canucks were also able to kill off one power play when Alex Burrows was sent off for hooking at 4:43, continuing to show their strength on the penalty kill that is ranked seventh in the league.
With just seconds left in a Canucks penalty against Alex Edler for holding, Cam Fowler blasted a slap shot towards the net that was tipped in by Matt Beleskey past Luongo to give the Ducks a 1-0 lead at 6:44 in the second period. Less than two minutes later, the Ducks added another goal as Brad Staubitz sent off a soft wrist shot from the far side of the right circle that sneaked by Luongo, extending Anaheim’s lead to two goals. By the end of the second period, the Ducks held a 25-9 advantage in the shots department.
The Canucks came out shooting in the third period with four shots on net in the first two minutes. Eight minutes in, the Canucks got perhaps their best chance on net as Dan Hamhuis skated in on net and nearly beat Hiller had it not been for a kick save to knock the puck away. Halfway into the period, the Canucks had more shots on net in the period than the first 40 minutes.
The Canucks were given a 5-on-3 opportunity as Burrows took a high stick to the throat, drawing a double minor. Jason Garrison delivered a blistering one-timer on net, finally beating Hiller at 16:42 in the third period, cutting the Ducks’ lead in half. Still on the power play, Luongo headed off to the bench, giving the Canucks a 6-on-4 advantage for the remainder of the game. The Canucks seemed to focus more on passing rather than shooting at the end, as they were unable to get one more shot past Hiller. Andrew Cogliano added an empty net goal to seal the win for the Ducks.
Luongo gave a good effort, with the only goals given up while he was in net came off a deflection and a shot from an odd angle as he stopped 27 shots on the night.
Despite being outshot 25-9 through the first two periods, the Canucks outshot the Ducks 20-5 in the final period as they tried to erase the two-goal deficit.
The Canucks will wrap up their regular season on Saturday against the Edmonton Oilers. Luongo will once again get the start in net as the team rests Schneider for the playoffs.
Speaking of playoffs, while the Canucks have locked up the 3-seed, their opponent is still up in the air, and things are getting interesting. While it had looked like the Canucks would face the Blues in the first round, St. Louis actually controls its own destiny to finish with the 4-seed. They can lock that spot up with a win over Chicago on Saturday. Just one point separates the Blues, Kings and Sharks, all possible first round opponents for the Canucks. All three games will be played at the same time, so expect plenty of scoreboard watching for fans at home.