With only three points separating all five teams in the Northwest Division, the Vancouver Canucks picked the worst time to go into a tailspin on the road.
Vancouver (17-17-1) looks to avoid its longest road losing streak in nearly eight years when it meets the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Friday.
The Canucks' road skid reached five after a 2-0 loss to Boston on Thursday. Vancouver outshot the Bruins 39-19 - including a 14-0 advantage in the third period - but was blanked for the fourth time this season.
The Canucks have been shut out twice and outscored 22-6 during their current road slide. They haven't dropped six consecutive games away from home since March 13-April 7, 1999.
Dany Sabourin, making just his third start of the season in net, gave up first-period power-play goals to Patrice Bergeron and Glen Murray.
"Our start cost us the game," Vancouver forward Markus Naslund said. "We've got to find a way to put away our chances, we have to find a way to finish. That's the frustrating part right now."
Things are not about to get easier for the Canucks. After meeting the Blue Jackets (12-18-3), Vancouver will play second-place Calgary in three of its next four games starting on Tuesday. The other game in that span is a road contest against division-leading Edmonton.
The Oilers lead the Northwest with 38 points, one more than the Flames. Colorado and Minnesota are tied for third with 36 points, while the last-place Canucks have 35.
Vancouver has won four in a row over the Blue Jackets and, following a rare night off, should have Roberto Luongo back in goal. After making 18 saves in a 3-2 overtime win over Columbus on Oct. 6, he stopped all 24 Blue Jackets shots he faced in a 1-0 victory on Nov. 28.
For his career, Luongo is 4-1-1 with a 1.65 goals-against average and three shutouts against the Blue Jackets. None of those shutouts, though, have come in Columbus.
The Blue Jackets are coming off their league-high seventh shutout loss of the season, 5-0 to Detroit 5-0 on Wednesday for a split of a home-and-home series. Columbus scored three first-period goals and held on for a 4-3 win over the Red Wings on Monday.
"They scored on their chances and we didn't," Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock said after Wednesday's defeat. "We didn't show the energy, some guys, that we've shown in the past."
The Blue Jackets could use some offense from former Canuck Anson Carter, who's been in a season-long slump but needs just three goals for 200 in his career.
Since 1996, Carter has played with Washington, Boston, Edmonton, the New York Rangers and Los Angeles, but last season with Vancouver was his best as a pro. He led the Canucks with 33 goals including 15 on the power play - both career highs - and finished with 55 points.
Vancouver, though, chose not to resign him, and the Blue Jackets inked him to a one-year deal in September. Carter has scored only one of his six goals this season with the man advantage, and has only 16 points in 33 games.
Rick Nash has four goals and two assists in a three-game home points streak. He leads Columbus with 12 goals and his 26 points are second on the team behind David Vyborny (30).
-- Associated Press