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An avalanche of chances

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
Competing against carnies at the fair, regardless of the booth, can be frustrating.

All you have to do is get the ball in the net or pop that balloon to win the big prize, but sometimes it just doesn’t go your way.

All the while it feels like the carnie is just toying with you, he knows that in the end he’s going to come out on top.

That’s how the Vancouver Canucks are feeling after their 2-1 shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche.

The Avalanche played the role of carnie on this night. Time after time after time they gave the Canucks the opportunity to steal the win, yet it was just one of those games where it didn’t matter how hard Vancouver tried, it wasn't going to happen.

In the end the big prize of two divisional points went to the Northwest cellar dwelling Avalanche, while the Canucks get stuck with a laughable point.

“It was a really tough game when you think about it,” explained Steve Bernier, “we had so many chances to score goals and bring that 1-0 game to 2-0 or 3-0.”

Bernier only registered one shot on net, but that’s because he miffed the puck on at least two glorious goal-scoring opportunities.

“Sometimes you want to score too much and I did it a bit too quick and I missed the puck,” said Bernier.

He was not alone though. Of Vancouver’s 31 shots at least 10 were gift-wrapped goals if only for a little finish.

Taylor Pyatt, who hasn’t been known for his finesse goal scoring this season, was the only Canuck to beat Avalanche netminder Peter Budaj on the night and he did it in impressive fashion.

Pyatt was hauled down on an attempted break away, so he skated to centre ice for his first career NHL penalty shot.

He eased in with speed and snapped a wrist shot low glove side on Budaj to put Vancouver in front 1-0, just under three minutes into the second period.

Roberto Luongo has been playing pretty good of late, you might have heard a thing or two about it, and after he was left out to dry for the opening period (shots were 16-8 for Colorado), the Canucks leaned on their all-star goalie even more after scoring.

Louie, as always, was up to the task, but as the Canucks continued to miss golden scoring chances, it became clear that the Avalanche were gaining more and more momentum.

That led to Paul Stastny’s fourth goal of the season, an ugly, choppy score, at 1:28 of the third period.

Like an old school Ali punch to the gut, the Canucks had the wind knocked out of them.

“Louie kept us in there all game and it was kind of shocking to everybody when they finally got one in,” said Kyle Wellwood.

After a brief Vancouver lull that had Colorado test Luongo a few more times, the Canucks were back on offense. But like getting that little red ring to stay on that clearly misshapen Coke bottle at the fair, scoring wasn’t an option.

Even with two power play chances midway through the final 20 minutes, a goal was impossible to come by.

“We had some really good chances on the power play and 5-on-5, Roberto made some tremendous saves for us and kept us in the game and we were unable to pull it out,” said Pyatt.

The inability to pull the trigger in close was Vancouver’s downfall, but Budaj certainly didn’t make it easy on them.

The Czechoslovakian caesar stopped 31 shots, Luongo may have been riding a shutout streak spanning more than ten periods going into the game, but Budaj arguably outplayed him.

“He played really well. We had some good chances to score and he made some key saves and big timing saves in the second and late in the third,” Luongo said.

“He played a real good game and he made about three or four good stops on me,” added Wellwood. “I had a couple of breakaways on him and he stopped me. He played real well.”

Luongo’s shutout streak ended at 242:36, he was vocal all week about it not mattering to him though and while four games would have been nice, two points would have been even nicer.

“I don’t really care about the streak,” said Luongo. “The goal tonight was the two points and we fell short of that, so that’s more disappointing than anything else.

“We can’t be satisfied with the performance, we’re hunting for the two points every night and that’s what’s going to make us successful in the long run.”

The Canucks now have two nights off before the Toronto Maple Leafs come to town to finish Vancouver’s six-game homestand.

They already know how important a win is against the Leafs.

“It’s huge because we’re going on a big road trip and road trips are tough,” said Bernier. “If we’re able to get the momentum back, it’s going to be a good thing for the road trip.”

Colorado's carnies were frustrating, but they'll be nothing compared to the traveling circus that is Leafs Nation.

1 – Career penalty shot goal for Taylor Pyatt

– Shots each for Mason Raymond, Taylor Pyatt, Kyle Wellwood and Mattias Ohlund

8 Shots for the Canucks in the first period

58 – Vancouver's face-off percentage. Ryan Johnson led the way going 11-for-15 (73%)

242:36 – Luongo's franchise record shutout streak from a year ago

Missed opportunites plagued the Canucks against the Avalanche.

There were at least seven blown chances to score by Vancouver, especially on the power play.

Bernier admitted that he wanted to score so bad he was rushing things, maybe all the Canucks were in the same boat?

Vancouver's blueliners have really come together on his homestand and although Roberto Luongo was the reason this game was so close, they still deserve credit.

The defence was moving the puck well on the power play and taking good shots from the outside, they just weren't getting through.

Louie was his usual spectacular self making 33 saves on the night.

The chances were certainly there for the taking with Vancouver on the power play, it just came down to finish and the Canucks had none. Zilch. Nadda.

Vancouver was 0-for-4 with nine shots on net.

The Canucks held the Avalanche to only one power play goal, they were 1-for-4. This was especially important in the third period with Vancouver down two men. That kill earned them a point in this game.
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