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Motor City meltdown

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
The stage was set.

In the midst of a three-game losing streak going in, the Vancouver Canucks had an opportunity to not only snap their skid, but to do it against the defending champs in their own backyard.

Unfortunately the Detroit Red Wings would have none of it and even a late game surge by the Canucks wasn’t enough as they were trounced 6-5 at Joe Louis Arena on Thursday night.

The Canucks made it up on stage, but in the end they tumbled right off.

Act one started better than planned with Taylor Pyatt silencing the crowd just 1:35 into the first. After dangling the puck into the Detroit end, Shane O’Brien hit Pyatt with a backhand pass athe mighty Pieman snapped it in glove side on Chris Osgood.

Hello momentum, it’s good to see you.

Vancouver’s lead didn’t last long as O’Brien and Kyle Wellwood combined to turn the puck over near the left face-off circle in the Canucks zone, bing-bang-boom – Valtteri Filppula to Tomas Kopecky to Jiri Hudler – and the game was tied just past the five minute mark.

Five minutes later, this time on the breakaway, Hudler was at it again as he scored to the Wings in front 2-1. Another Vancouver mistake = another Detroit goal.

That’s the way the period ended, au revoir momentum.

“Against this team, if you give up the puck and turn the puck over, they’re going to score on you,” Mattias Ohlund said.

Act two began just as promising as the opening one did for the Canucks; Wellwood beat Osgood on the power play from in close just 1:32 in.

Then it was Mason Raymond putting in a puck that deflected his way from an errant Alex Edler point shot that came off the boards. Vancouver was up 3-2 with its second lead of the game, surely blowing it was out of the question this time.

Act three had the teams knotted at 3-3 and just when the Canucks looked ready for a closing number to remember, the Red Wings did what they do best, dominate.

Three goals in less than three minutes closed the curtain on Vancouver’s hopes for their first win in four games, despite a valiant effort in the late stages that saw the Canucks unleash a fury of shots on Osgood.

Henrik Sedin and Alex Burrows managed to beat him, but Vancouver came up short on its attempt to do the same to Detroit.

“We put some pucks in the net tonight, we’re happy about that, but we’re not going to win many games getting six goals against,” said Kevin Bieksa, who had one helper.

“We made a lot of mistakes tonight and we paid for it.”

Vancouver’s grocery list of blunders included turnovers, poor decision-making and an overall lack of killer instinct, mostly on the backend.

The Canucks scored on their first shot on net to open the game so they knew what had to be done to shoot down the Wings. The team just couldn’t get it done despite five different scorers lighting the lamp and 12 players collecting at least a point each.

The offence was there, the defence wasn’t.

“We’ve got to find a way to play better defence, not just the defenceman but as a five-man unit,” said Ohlund. “We had d-men making mistakes and forwards making mistakes defensively.

“We weren’t working hard enough and making the right plays for sixty minutes. We had some good moments, but not against this team, you’re not going to get points giving up six goals.”

This was the first game of the season the Canucks have lost when scoring at least four goals. Typically when the offence shows up in abundance, the defence responds by limiting chances and playing smart hockey allowing Vancouver to come out on top.

Vancouver’s defensive unit is thought to be one of the best in the league and if the team hopes to end its four-game losing streak anytime soon, that unit needs to play better.

“When you’re on the road against the Stanley Cup champions and you score five goals, you should win,” said Alain Vigneault.

Not only should you win, it should be a laugher.

The only humour on this night was Vancouver’s D and the play of Curtis Sanford. Chris Osgood played equally as lurid at the other end of the ice, but he escaped with the win so he can simply write it off as a bad game.

Sandman will have a tough time doing that, especially since he got the hook for the first time this season. Cory Schneider replaced him with 13 minutes to play in the game.

“It’s always a surprise to get pulled, but I think the way things were going…it was warranted,” said Sanford, who stopped 27 of 33 shots.

“Curtis is like a lot of our players,” added Vigneault, “I think a lot of guys can play better and considering the situation we’re in right now where we’ve lost quite a few in a row here, to come out of this guys need to bring their A-game to the table and he’s no different than anybody else.”

The Canucks will now visit the Minnesota Wild in the fourth contest of their seven game trip, looking to break a season-high four-game slide.

“We have no choice but to play better, if we don’t, we’re not going to win in Minnesota,” Ohlund insisted. “It’s a tough building to play in. We have to find a way to play our type of hockey.”

Vancouver seems a tad disoriented as to what their style of hockey is at the moment, but the stage has been re-set for them to find it Friday night in Minnesota.

1 – Number of games Curtis Sanford has now been pulled from this season

4 – Straight losses for the Canucks

  5 – Different Vancouver scorers in Detroit

  12 – Canucks who recorded at least a point versus the Red Wings

100 – Career NHL points for Steve Bernier, he assited on Vancouver's opening goal

It is very difficult to find the positives in a loss like this, but Vancouver's offence was it.

Five different players beat Osgood and 12 picked up at least a single point in the team's most balanced offensive attack of the season.

If only the defence could have kept pace with the offence.

This loss can't be pinned squarely on the D's shoulders because the Canucks made some mistakes up front as well, but the majority came in Vancouver's end.

Curtis Sanford didn't get much help and it's tough to blame him for a few goals. He should have been there for a few others.

The Canucks snatched any momentum the Red Wings had early in the second with a power play goal. Now if only they had been so successful on their other two attempts.

1-for-3 ain't bad though, especially against a lethal penalty kill.

Vancouver held the Wings to only one power play goal as well and they stopped them on a lengthy 5-on-3 in the first period.

  Detroit was 1-for-6 overall.
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