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Incomplete effort

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
Vancouver’s disheartening 4-2 loss to San Jose is easily summed up by the first and third goals the Sharks scored.

Both came on the power play, both with only two seconds remaining before the Canucks player skated back onto the ice and both inadvertently went in off a skate.

On this night there was competitiveness and effort galore from the Canucks, the Sharks came out the better team not only because they got lucky, but because Vancouver couldn’t go the full distance.

For forty minutes the Canucks went toe-to-toe with the best team in the Western Conference, the teams were pretty much even in all departments.

Once the third period was underway the theme from Jaws might as well have been playing throughout GM Place as the Sharks were circling.

Looking for even the slightest moment of weakness from the home team, San Jose was relentless in its attack, finally scoring the game-winning goal on a controversial play.

With Vancouver two seconds away from killing off its sixth penalty of the game, Joe Thornton threw the puck on net from in close. Dan Boyle batted away at it connecting just enough to deflect it in off the skate of Patrick Marleau.

With Marleau having made a distinct kicking motion, the officials reviewed the goal yet were unable to reverse the call concluding that the puck went in unintentionally.

At least 18,630 fans in attendance disagreed and so did Curtis Sanford, the man who allowed the score.

“By the looks of it there’s a kicking intention, but the puck had already found its way between my pads before you could actually see the kicking motion,” said Sanford. “I think that was the determining factor.”

Sanford stopped 23 shots in his first game action since playing only the opening period on Dec. 30 against the Philadelphia Flyers. He was steady at times, shaky at others, but certainly played well enough to lead Vancouver to a much needed win.

The Canucks were tremendously better than in Friday night’s outing versus the St. Louis Blues, it’s too bad effort alone isn’t enough to generate points.

“We hung with them for two periods, they got a couple lucky bounces on the power play – they don’t get those bounces, we win the game,” said Ryan Kesler.

“I think it was an overall better effort tonight, but at the same time we’ve got to find a way to win these games and we didn’t tonight.”

After being skunked in his first two games with the Canucks, Mats Sundin found a way to hit the scoresheet as he notched Vancouver’s opening goal.

The power play marker came with only eight seconds remaining in the opening period. While manning the point, Kevin Bieksa took a pass from Henrik Sedin and wired a shot on net. Brian Boucher made the initial save, but the rebound squirted out of control and right onto the stick of Sundin who torched it in.

Wrapped in white hockey tape with the scoring details circling it, the puck was front and centre in Sundin’s stall after the game. While it was a relief to pot one, Sundin was disgruntled about scoring it in a losing cause.

“In the end it’s all about winning,” said Sundin, who received a lengthy, deafening, Garage shaking standing ovation after scoring.

“I thought we worked hard, I thought we played a pretty good game. They got some lucky breaks where it went off their feet and into our net, so overall I thought we played a lot better tonight.

“We competed against the best team in our conference and if we had a little bit of lucky bounces, we could have won that game.”

Lucky bounces wasn’t all the Canucks needed to harpoon the Sharks, mounting any offensive attack at all in the third period was also a must.

Vancouver only produced two shots in the final frame ensuring a bitter finish to a winnable game.

“They tightened it up quite a bit and there wasn’t a whole lot there, we were trying to put everything possible on net,” said Bieksa.

“Give them credit, they played a lot tighter defensively.”

Once a dangerous arena to enter as an opposing team, GM Place is becoming a soft place to play with the Canucks having lost four straight and five of six on home ice.

That, among other things, is of concern to Alain Vigneault, whose team has opened a five game homestand with two consecutive losses.

“We definitely need to get better at home, that is something that I’ve been talking with our team about,” said Vigneault.

“I think tonight might be a step in the right direction here in the first two periods, hopefully when New Jersey is here on Tuesday we’ll be able to put 60 minutes together.”

The Canucks will need another effort like this one when the Devils swing into town and with a little luck, the bounces will end up in Vancouver’s favour.

– Goal for Mats Sundin, his first with Vancouver

2 – Points for Henrik Sedin, he drew the second assist on both Canucks goals

4 – Straight losses at GM Place for Vancouver

6 – Consecutive games the Canucks have lost to the Sharks

23 – Saves for Curtis Sanford in first game since Dec. 30

Through two periods Vancouver was in this game; goals by Mats Sundin and Daniel Sedin had things even at 2-2.

A flat third period cost the Canucks, they fired only two shots at Brian Boucher.

Alain Vigneault juggled a few of the lines, but there was no offence to be had in the third.

Vancouver was outshot by  San Jose 27-26 (10-2 in the final frame)

Vancouver's once solid defence is currently struggling to not only keep pucks out of the net, but also eliminate opposing chances.

There's also a lack of grit with this typically physical defensive unit only dishing out three hits all game.

Curtis Sanford was up and down, he played well enough for Vancouver to win, but could have been much better.

For the second consecutive outing the game-winning goal is scored with Mats Sundin in the box.

That's more a coincidence than anything else, but the Canucks have to play smarter in the late stages to avoid giving up easy scoring chances.

The Sharks were 2-for-6 on the PP overall.

The Canucks were 1-for-6 on the power play, they frustrated fans by looking for the pretty goals instead of just getting pucks on net.
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