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Lethargic 20

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
Handing a team a three-goal cushion in the first period is a bad move on most nights, against the New Jersey Devils it’s borderline insane.

The Vancouver Canucks tempted fate by doing just that and paid for it in a 5-3 loss to the Devils Tuesday night.

With the way the Devils clamp down defensively, even allowing them to lead by a single goal can be dangerous.

The Canucks didn’t have to wait long to find that out as fans were still flocking to their seats when the Devils opened the scoring just 1:05 into the game.

A bad play by Jason LaBarbera led to a quick goal for Brian Rolston; no worries, shake it off and get in the game.

That mindset lasted exactly two minutes and 24 seconds with Zach Parise doubling the Jersey lead at the 3:29 mark.

Uh oh.

Out went LaBarbera, in came Curtis Sanford as the Canucks maintained their focus and worked on mounting a comeback.

Brian Gionta ensured it would be a hefty comeback if one were to go down. He scored midway through the period to give the Devils a 3-0 lead.

Coming into the game the Canucks were a gloomy 4-10-0 when trailing after the opening 20 minutes, so as they skated to the dressing room down a trio of goals, a Bronx cheer cascaded from the disgruntled crowd.

“We deserved that tonight,” said Darcy Hordichuk.

“We can’t explain exactly why we came out with that start, but that’s not what we wanted tonight.”

Vancouver was held to just four shots in the opening frame with no scoring chances to speak of. The team was lethargic at best and if it’s possible to skate slower than if engulfed in quicksand, the Canucks were doing just that.

There was a noticeable lack of passion, excitement and effort throughout the first and it led to Vancouver’s third consecutive loss during this five-game homestand.

“I can’t explain it, I don’t know what happened,” said Kevin Bieksa.

“We’re ready in the dressing room and then we go out there and for whatever reason we’re just not executing in the first couple of minutes.”

“It’s one of those things were we didn’t have our legs in the first and they did and they jumped on us,” added Ryan Kesler.

“They got in with the forecheck and created a couple of turnovers and before we even know we’re down 3-0 clawing our way back.

“We didn’t deserve this one tonight.”

Sporting a 13-3-3 record when in possession of a lead going into the first intermission, the Canucks are clearly a better team when they don’t limp out of the gates.

A slow start was the difference on this night as Vancouver mounted a valiant attack through the final two periods.

The Canucks outshot the Devils 25-16, outscored them 3-2 and outplayed them overall in the second and third, but it’s of little comfort to a team that is veering off-course.

In addition to having lost five consecutive games on home ice, Vancouver has dropped five of six overall and is putting up little to no fight in trying to catch the Calgary Flames for the division lead.

“Most good teams don’t do that,” said Bieksa. “We’re losing games on the road and at home right now so I don’t think that’s really the concentration or the focus, it’s just winning games now and getting points. We’re not even getting to overtime, so we’re not getting any points right now.”

Without an end to the misery in sight, there’s little the Canucks can do except buck up and come together as a team. Getting Roberto Luongo back will help, but if these past few games have proven anything, it’s that it takes more than one man to get the job done.

“I think everybody’s got to step up and play harder because this is not exactly what we wanted, especially with getting a guy like Sundin in here, it’s not the kind of welcome that we wanted,” said Hordichuk.

Coach Alain Vigneault didn’t scream, he didn’t yell, he barely raised his voice in dissecting his team’s poor performance versus the Devils. That's surprising, considering most of Vancouver is up in arms right now.

“I’m demanding and I challenge my players because I believe in them,” he said. “If you don’t believe in your group, you’re just wishy washy with everything.

“I believe in these guys, I think we’ve got great leadership, obviously we’re facing some adversity, we’ve faced adversity in the past and we’ve responded.”

If it’s true that the night is darkest before the dawn, the Canucks will counter this game with their best effort of the season Thursday night against Phoenix.

If that’s false, Vancouver is in trouble.

2 – Goals allowed by both Jason LaBarbera and Curtis Sanford

– Goal lead Vancouver spotted New Jersey

4 – Wins for the Canucks when trailing after the first period (4-11-0)

5 – Straight losses for the Canucks at GM Place

500th – Career game for Taylor Pyatt

The first period was bad, real bad, but the Big O came to life in the second and third periods.

After only recording four shots in the first, the Canucks hit the Devils with 25 the rest of the game, three of which were goals.

Steve Bernier's goal late in the third is what the team needs right now. He just threw the puck on net and it fluked its way in. Dirty goals win games.

Watching the Canucks circle around in their own end was almost nauseating.

There seemed to be no communication between defenders or with the goalies and turnovers were the result.

What has happened to Vancouver's shutdown defence?

The Canucks are 15-8-2 when scoring a power play goal and whether that would have helped or not on this night, Vancouver was 0-for-3 with only three shots.

Vancouver's power play was perfect in killing off New Jersey's only chance.
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