Wednesday night’s loss to the Chicago Blackhawks felt like a scene out of South Park. You know, the one where Stan tries to invest money into a bank and when he checks on it, the banker tells him, “and it’s gone.” The Canucks jumped out to a two goal lead early, but a nightmarish second period buried any chance at the win as the Blackhawks unleashed four goals in a span of 7:41 to take control. The Canucks have a lead, and it’s gone.
Vancouver wasted no time in getting the scoring started, a promising sign from a team plagued by scoring droughts. Ryan Kesler threw a backhand shot towards the net while Chris Higgins, left alone in front of Crawford, slipped it on through to give the Canucks a 1-0 lead a whopping sixteen seconds in. Higgins actually created the play after getting Kesler the puck off to him at the point from his knees, recovering in time to position himself by the net.
After taking a shot to the upper body off the stick of Duncan Keith, Roberto Luongo instantly keeled over, clearly in some sort of pain. Last month, Luongo missed time with a groin injury and then an ankle injury suffered in his first game back from the original groin injury. This looked to be nothing more than just taking a hard shot in an awkward spot near the collarbone. Right after, Luongo appeared to be in no sort of pain.
Midway through the opening period, the Canucks had managed only two shots on goal, with the first finding the back of the net. Luongo was kept significantly busy on the other end but was able to preserve Vancouver’s lead with some heads-up saves. It appeared early as if it was going to require Luongo to come up with a potential 40-plus save effort if the Canucks hoped to come out with the win.
Late in the first period, the Canucks finally managed to start getting shots on net with a flurry of chances against Corey Crawford. First, Kesler sent a one-timer on net off a centering pass, but Crawford’s quick reaction prevented the goal. Moments later, David Booth nearly wrapped around Crawford in front of the net while he was down, but couldn’t pull the puck around the pad.
It was nice to see some life from Vancouver after they managed just a few shots on net for nearly the entire period until the late rush during the final few minutes. No more goals, but moral victories. We all like those, right guys?
Early in the second period, the Canucks added in another goal from Tom Sestito, who actually started the whole sequence after coming up with a turnover as 23 mishandled the puck, proving Brad Richards with a shot in front of the net. The shot deflected off Crawford, giving the Canucks a second chance. Ryan Stanton delivered a pass from behind the net out to Sestito as the Canucks extended their lead to 2-0.
After a goaltender interference penalty to David Booth, the Blackhawks struck on the power play to cut Vancouver’s lead in half. Chicago displayed textbook puck movement, finding Marian Hosa open near the net for the power play goal.
Moments later, the Blackhawks tied things up with a goal from Brandon Saad. After controlling the puck and getting it around the boards to keep it in the zone, Sheldon Brookbank delivered a one-timer blast towards the net. Saad found himself to be in the right place at the right time, deflecting the puck in to tie things up.
In the blink of an eye, the Canucks lead vanished as the Blackhawks came in with a 3-on-2 rush. Brent Seabrook delivered a centering pass from the corner to Jonathan Toews who tapped it in for the go-ahead goal. Kevin Bieksa was positioned in front of the net, but unfortunately wasn’t aware of Toews behind him. The pass also ricocheted off the foot of Jannik Hansen, bouncing right past Bieksa and to Toews.
In a span of just over four minutes, the Canucks went from leading 2-0 to trailing 3-2. In the words of Ron Burgandy, “that escalated quickly.”
A few minutes later, the Blackhawks would continue their second period assault on Luongo. After some confusion around the benches when the Canucks wanted a penalty for too many men on the ice against Chicago, no call was made and play carried on. Ben Smith was skating off to the bench while Duncan Keith delivered a pass intended for him. The puck went off the boards and the Canucks came up with it to create a short-lived rush that didn’t make it out of the neutral zone. Chicago came back up with the puck, and after a drop pass from Toews, Patrick Sharp found himself with plenty of space to come up with the Blackhawks’ fourth goal in less than eight minutes to put the Canucks in quite the hole going into the final period.
The Canucks had an uphill battle heading into the third period, especially considering that Vancouver had been outscored 11-1 during the final period in their last eight games.
Early in the third period, the Canucks had a promising string of defensive plays to break up Chicago scoring opportunities, including one from Yanick Weber who was able to keep stride with Patrick Sharp to break up a possible breakaway chance on net. Shortly after, Jannik Hansen nearly cut into the Blackhawks lead with a good scoring chance after creating some space for himself to get around Brandon Saad, but Crawford was able to come up with an impressive glove save to keep the score at 4-2.
Midway through the third period, the Canucks had a couple good chances on net during a power play, but the scoring woes would continue. Despite outshooting the Blackhawks 10-1 during the period at this point, Crawford was coming up with stop after stop to preserve Chicago’s two goal lead.
At this point though, the Canucks simply fell flat and wouldn’t manage another shot on net until the final minute of the game after Luongo headed off with the Canucks shorthanded. Chicago would regain possession, with Hosa finding Saad while along the boards for his second goal of the night to cap off the 5-2 win.
After going 1-3 on this most recent homestand, the Canucks now hit the road for five games before the Olympic break. Back in 2010, Vancouver won six of their next eight games after taking a couple weeks off for the Olympics, so hopefully a mini-vacation will do this team some good. Earlier this year, the Canucks had a full week off for Christmas, but struggled after the holiday, dropping five out of their next six games after the break. It’s been a rough January, so a couple weeks off certainly couldn’t hurt the team, hopefully allowing them to hit some sort of reset button and come back fresh and ready to try and climb up the standings.