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Game 77: Last Laugh

by Daniel Fung / Vancouver Canucks
For the second time this season on Tuesday, ex-Canuck head coach Alain Vigneault watched his New York Rangers put the boots to his former club. He owes much of his happy homecoming to his goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist.

The Rangers' superstar netminder made 34 saves on 35 shot to help lift the Rangers to a 3-1 win over the Canucks at Rogers Arena.

The win was the Rangers' fourth in a row over the Canucks overall, and their second under Vigneault's guidance following a 5-2 victory at Madison Square Garden back on November 30. Tuesday's loss, however, stung the Canucks much more than the one back in late November.

Desperately needing a victory just to keep pace with the Dallas Stars, whose victory earlier on Tuesday over the Capitals moved them into the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, the Canucks instead put themselves in a position where they could potentially be officially eliminated from playoff contention before they even hit the ice on Saturday for their next game against the Kings.

Vancouver was down 2-0 by the end of the first period after markers by Daniel Carcillo and Benoit Pouliot but managed to pull within one at 6:21 of the middle frame after Daniel Sedin found Ryan Kesler with a nice cross-ice feed that Kesler managed to one-time between legs of Lundqvist for his team-leading 24th goal of the season.

It was after that point that the Canucks started to take over the game territorially only to have their scoring efforts thwarted by Lundqvist time and again.

There was a Garrison point shot that Lundqvist denied late in the second period, not to mention several rebound chances for Tom Sestito on the doorstep immediately thereafter. He also turned aside all four shots on two Vancouver power plays midway through the third period just when it looked like the Canucks were building some momentum and were poised to find the equalizer.

Those power play saves would turn out to be critical as the Rangers would add their third of the night shorthanded at 10:15 of the final frame with Rick Nash setting up Martin St. Louis for his first goal as a Ranger.

Eddie Lack, making his 17th consecutive start, settled down after a shaky opening period to finish with 28 saves on 31 shots.

Zack Kassian had his career-high four-game point streak snapped... Raphael Diaz played his first game against the Canucks since his brief stint in Vancouver. He was acquired from the Montreal Canadiens on February 3 for Dale Weise and dispatched just over a month later on trade deadline day to the Rangers for a fifth-round pick... Rangers' forward Martin St. Louis snapped a six-game point drought and a 16-game goal drought with his third period tally... Tuesday's win marked the first time Henrik Lundqvist has beaten the Canucks without also pitching a shutout... The Canucks have not beaten the Rangers since November 3, 2009... Alex Burrows was assessed a five-minute elbowing major and a game misconduct at 19:16 of the third period for his hit on Ryan McDonagh.

THE DEFENCE RESTS: As per Canucks TV host and stats wiz Joey Kenward (@kenwardskorner), during the month of March the Canucks' blueliners combined for seven goals and 17 assists in 14 games and contributed at least one point in every outing with the exception of their 1-0 loss to Phoenix on March 4. The defence was held point-less on Tuesday in the loss to the Rangers despite combining for 13 of the team's 35 shots on the night. Kevin Bieksa led all players in the game with six shots.

40 NO MORE: With Tuesday's loss, the Canucks will fail to reach the 40-win mark in a full season for the first time since the 2007.08 campaign. In the last 10 full 82-game seasons, the 2007.08 was the only one that failed to reach the 40-win mark. That year's team, led by Alain Vigneault, also failed to advance to the playoffs.

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