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One that got away

by Sunny Dhillon / Vancouver Canucks
Last season, the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot was decided by a single point.

If that holds true again this year, the Vancouver Canucks might very well look back on February 27 with a whole lot of regret.

Joe Sakic tied the game with 15 seconds remaining in the third period, then scored the winner in the shootout as his Colorado Avalanche moved to within a point of Vancouver in the Western Conference playoff hunt by besting the Canucks 3-2 Wednesday night.

Vancouver, powered by a late third period of goal of its own courtesy Alex Burrows, looked destined to move four points up on the Avalanche but they simply couldn’t seal the deal late.

The importance of the point that got away wasn’t lost on a visibly frustrated Roberto Luongo.

“We had about six chances to get it out and either we shot it off our own guys or we didn’t get it out so next thing you know, a shot from the point and Sakic’s all alone on the side,” said Luongo.

“I was able to get the first save but he chipped it over me on the second one. It’s unacceptable, inexcusable, that should never happen, especially in an important game like that, so we just pissed away two points tonight.”

Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault said the defensive breakdown wasn’t from lack of trying or hustle.

“Well, obviously we’re not pleased with the outcome of the game,” said Vigneault. “Both teams played extremely hard and, you know, we took the lead there at the end on an incredible second and third effort from [Burrows, Taylor Pyatt, and Henrik Sedin].

"In the dying minutes there we had two clear opportunities to get the puck out of our zone and it wasn’t from lack of trying from the guys that were on the ice. They just probably over-tried, ran into one another and Colorado was able to keep the puck in the zone and they made us pay.”

Vancouver’s captain reasoned that all the Canucks can do now is learn and move on.

“What we can do is try and learn from the last mistakes there, keep moving ahead and I think the depth is there, and I think we’re playing a pretty strong team game right now,” said Markus Naslund. “Unfortunately we didn’t win tonight.”

Vancouver currently sits in seventh in the Western Conference playoff race with 73 points. The Avalanche and Nashville Predators are tied for eighth with 72 points. But the news isn’t all bad for Vancouver. The Canucks hold two games in hand on both clubs, as well as one game in hand on division-leading Minnesota. The Wild sit third in the conference, just two up on the Canucks with 75 points.

That’s just one of the reasons why, despite the heartbreaking loss, Vigneault described the cup as not half-empty, not half-full, but very full.

“Our month of February has been real good. We’re competing. We’re working. We’re getting a great effort and we’re getting a great performance from our guys. It’s unfortunate tonight, but those are things that every now and then happen. We’ve got to refocus tomorrow and get ready for Columbus [on Friday].”

4 – Points in four games for Mason Raymond, who scored Vancouver’s first goal of the night.

6 – Points in six games for Ryan Shannon, who drew an assist on Raymond’s goal.

6-9 – Record for Vancouver in games decided by the shootout.

14:47 – Of ice-time for Matt Pettinger in his Vancouver debut. Pettinger failed to get a shot on goal and was a -1.

Jose Theodore was the game’s first star, and understandably so. The Colorado netminder kept a Vancouver offense that looked dangerous all night in check. Kesler and Burrows, in particular, had strong nights.

A coverage blunder led to the first goal, an inability to clear the zone led to the second. Still, Luongo wasn’t worked as hard as we’ve seen of late and the defense kept the Avs from generating too many grade-A chances.

The PP was dreadful, finishing 0-for-6 and failing to capitalize on three third period opportunities. The PK looked as good as it has all season, finishing 6-for-6.
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