Shootouts may actually be slipperier than black ice for the Canucks as for the second contest in a row Vancouver lost a winnable game after letting it come down to a one-on-one battle for supremacy.
Tied 2-2 through 65 minutes of play, the Canucks and Dallas Stars picked their magical three shooters and crossed their fingers.
Pavol Demitra, Kyle Wellwood and Alex Edler stepped forward for Vancouver, while Dallas responded with Brad Richards, Loui Eriksson and Mike Ribeiro.
After Demitra and Richards were both denied, Wellwood and Eriksson each found the back of the net. Edler and Ribeiro were then met with saves to force extra shooters. Ryan Kesler
was quick to put the Canucks in front and on the verge of victory when he snapped a wrister past Marty Turco; Mike Modano was the only player standing in Vancouver’s way.
Modano skated in at half-speed before ripping a shot on Jason LaBarbera, the fans rose to their feet as Vancouver’s celebratory horn went off – too bad LaBarbera couldn’t handle the shot as he fell backwards into his net.
Alex Burrows then missed the goal on his attempt, setting the stage for James Neal’s game-winner in a 3-2 Dallas win.
LaBarbera recorded 34 saves in regulation and overtime in his finest outing as a Canuck thus far, but the save that got away was understandably the only one he could focus on afterwards.
“I knew what he was doing, he did it to us in LA – same shot except he put it under the bar in LA, I think he just missed it and I overplayed it,” said LaBarbera, of Modano’s goal. “Unfortunately it snuck in, I had a read on it and I knew what he was doing but I can’t buy a break in the shootouts.
“If anybody has any tips for me in the shootout there I’d like to know.”
LaBarbera may have backed the Canucks to points in each of his starts since joining the team last week, but he’s a dreadful 0-for-5 in shootouts this season.
“It sucks because in my career I’ve been really good at them,” he said. “In the American League I was really good at them and in my NHL career I’ve been good at them, so I couldn’t tell you what’s going on.”
While it was the supposed stop on Modano that everyone was buzzing about, the fact of the matter is that the Canucks have extreme difficultly scoring in the shootout.
Vancouver is now 1-for-5 this season with the team’s only shootout win coming in Anaheim on Halloween night and it took them 13 rounds to achieve it.
“You only get three shooters so it’s tough and we’ve been fortunate to get a few goals, but when the game is on the line it seems like we just come up a little short,” assessed Wellwood, who opened the scoring for Vancouver with his 14th goal of the season.
“I don’t know how much guys practice it, even the good teams, I don’t think they’re out there practicing it. We’ve had chances to win in each of the last two shootouts, we had a shooter who could have scored and we got unlucky there with a save and that’s the difference.”
The truth is that there is no real explanation for the team’s shootout struggles and the bright side is that at least the team is picking up a single point each time they head to overtime and beyond.
It’s tough to see it, but the glass is half full. As long as these wasted points don’t come back to bite the Canucks like it did last year, according to Jason Jaffray.
“Vancouver missed the playoffs by just a few points last season so those points come up huge at the end of the season,” said Jaffray.
“It’s not really frustrating right now because it’s basically just your skilled guys out there doing their thing, but at the end of the season when you look back and see where we should have won shootouts, that’s when it’s tough. Hopefully we won’t have to worry about that this season.”
At the end of the season these shootout losses may come back to bite the Canucks, so at the end of the day they’ve got to find a way to get the job done.
That's easier said than done as Vancouver is currently stuck in a snow bank.