Avs break tie for seventh with Canucks: Vancouver shows another strong start, but lets lead slip away
Ben Kuzma said the Canucks failed to capitalize on another strong first period by succumbing to the Avalanche pressure:
It was far from a Kodak moment suitable for the scrapbook.
The image of an exhausted Roberto Luongo
laying on his back in disbelief -- and then slowly gathering himself after the Colorado Avalanche struck for their fourth goal of the second period off a scramble -- said it all about the burden of playing saviour night after night.
The workhorse goaltender was pulled at that point in a crushing 6-3 loss Wednesday that saw the Vancouver Canucks drop to eighth place in the Western Conference.
"They came at us hard in the second and I've got to try and make some of those saves, but I can't control what goes on in front of me," said Luongo, who allowed five goals on 23 shots. "I just try to do what I can do. Obviously, you don't want to let in five goals midway through the game."
Not only did the latest setback mark the first time the Vancouver Canucks have lost three-consecutive games in regulation time -- tops in the NHL -- it marked major concern that it's going to take much more than the last line of defence to produce wins because the Canucks are also just 4-9-3 in their past 16 division games.
In the second-period outburst the Canucks displayed poor pursuit and positional play, were caught flat-footed and treated the puck like it was a grenade.
Paul Stastny was allowed tap in a rebound in the crease to erase a 2-1 Canucks lead at 4:54 of the second period. Cody McLeod was then sprung by John-Michael Liles with a long lead pass as Alex Edler and Mike Weaver were caught up ice.
McLeod beat Luongo between the legs at 6:07 and the tide clearly turned in Colorado's favour.
Milan Hejduk snapped home his third goal of the season series on a 2-on-1 break at 10:29 as the Avs clearly smelled blood and kept pressing.
Their pressure culminated with Ben Guite's goal at 11:31 in which Rick Rypien tried to corral a loose puck and shove it into Luongo. It spurted loose for an easy goal.
Curtis Sanford came on in relief and got a lift when Sami Salo
's point slapper in the final minute of the second period made it 5-3. However, Hejduk struck again early in the third period to quell any comeback hopes. It was his 32nd goal in 54 career games against Vancouver.
Jordan Leopold opened scoring on the power play at 5:10 of the opening period before Daniel Sedin
and Taylor Pyatt struck at 9:59 and 13:18 respectively.
It was the second-straight night where the Canucks played a solid opening 20 minutes against stiff competition and then wilted. It left coach Alain Vigneault searching for solutions.
"We played well in the first period and for what ever reason, our second period slips and get behind the eight-ball and give the other team momentum and confidence," he said.
THE VANCOUVER SUN
Mile-high meltdown: Careless Canucks give away puck, goals, possible playoff spot
Iain MacIntyre said the Canucks playoff spot is in jeopardy after a deserving loss in Colorado:
The Canucks disintegrated in a 6-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche that imperils Vancouver's playoff bid. They can't get any worse, except in the National Hockey League standings.
They still hold the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, two points ahead of the Nashville Predators with five to play. But Vancouver's grip looks feeble and its season doomed if the Canucks play as recklessly and ineptly defensively as they did against Colorado.
Vancouver has lost three straight games and look lost on the ice. The Canucks have also lost centre Brendan Morrison again, likely for whatever games are left, after the veteran suffered an injury to the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee during a first-period hit.
It's one thing to lose games because you aren't talented or healthy enough, but it's another to dump points because you aren't smart enough, aren't disciplined or composed enough. Aren't professional enough.
The Canucks were built from the goal out. But from the blue line in they were awful. Considering their only hope of winning is through stout, reliable defensive play and superior goaltending, the Canucks' pursuit of a playoff spot seems ridiculous unless they rediscover their identity.
Starting at 4:54, the Avalanche scored twice in 73 seconds to begin its four-goal surge. Vancouver collapsed in the third period in Calgary, taking enough stupid penalties to let the Flames score two power-play goals in 41 seconds. But their defensive meltdown Wednesday was breathtaking in scope.
"I can't explain it," veteran Trevor Linden said. "A lot of our decisions weren't very good. I don't know if we made some tired mistakes, tired decisions."
"No excuses," defenceman Willie Mitchell said. "Are you kidding me? Everyone was chasing [Avalanche] guys because everyone was out of position. This time of year, against that type of team, if you're loose it's going to get magnified. Obviously we're going to have to look at that and play with more patience and poise."
Morrison hurts knee after hit in second
Ed Willes said in all likelihood Brendan Morrison will return to the list of IR casualties:
The NHL's one-time ironman could be right back where he started three weeks ago when he finally returned to the Vancouver Canucks lineup after missing 38 games with a wrist injury.
"You just have to shake your head," Morrison said shortly after the Canucks' 6-3 loss to Colorado. "I've been pretty healthy and now it's coming in bunches, so it's pretty frustrating."
On a night where absolutely nothing went right for the Canucks, Morrison managed to tweak his knee on an innocent-looking collision with Ruslan Salei early in the second period.
After directing a weak backhand at Avalanche goalie Jose Theodore, Morrison was directed into the boards by Salei but came up limping and was unable to put any weight on his leg.
Morrison was able to walk out of the Canucks' locker room on his own after the game. An MRI will likely be conducted this morning in Minnesota.
Luongo needs help and fast
Ed Willes said the team needs to show some support for their goaltender who has given it his all:
Following another road loss in which the Canucks lay down in front of him, it seemed like Luongo was tired of more than the media after Wednesday's debacle in the Mile High City. Midway through the second period, a dejected, defeated Luongo was yanked after surrendering five goals on 23 shots, and he has seldom looked as dispirited as he did when he left the ice at the Pepsi Center.
He's been mad before. He's been petulant before. But there has never been any question about Luongo's competitiveness or his commitment to the Canucks.
Now, you wonder about the cumulative effect of the last two seasons when the Canucks have gone exactly as far as their goalie's been able to carry them. You also wonder if the unreasonable demands placed on him have gotten to be too much, especially when it looks as if his teammates don't take this winning thing as seriously as he does.
"He's been great for us and you don't want to leave someone hanging out like that," said Trevor Linden. "It's not acceptable."
But for the second straight game, it happened.
Of the five goals the Avalanche scored against Luongo, one came off a rebound on a power play; one came when Paul Stastny was allowed to dig the puck loose in the Canucks' crease; one came on a clear-cut breakaway; one came on a two-on-one; and the fifth came when Rick Rypien tried to shovel the puck under Luongo in a wild scramble and succeeded in setting up Ben Guite with a sitter.
So you have to ask. Is this starting to get to Luongo? Has Vancouver become like the jail he escaped in Florida, only with lousier weather? Has being the focal point of this organization on and off the ice worn him down?
These questions, moreover, don't arise out of a vacuum. Luongo has now been here two years and in that time he's been one of the five best players in the NHL. He's given the Canucks an incredible competitive advantage. He's also given the organization every chance to build around him.
But he now looks around and sees the same core group that is unwilling or unable to raise its level of play in big games. He sees a team that doesn't have the horses to play run-and-gun, which has also abandoned the airtight defensive game that gave them a chance last season.
Mostly, he sees that whatever he does isn't enough.
Sure, he can still get the Canucks into the playoffs but where do they go from there? Luongo can even stand on his head and win them a round, but where do they go from there? They still need scoring. They still need size. They still need grit. And they need to dramatically alter their core.
If they don't understand that, they're fooling themselves. But you sense they're no longer fooling Luongo.
THE WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Trick foiled, Moose hit a perfect 10
Tim Campbell said the Moose extended their winning streak to 10 straight games with a convincing win:
Nothing, not even a bizarre wrinkle from a team with nothing to lose, was going to stop this perfect 10.
The Manitoba Moose overcame an early setback with offence and defence and posted a convincing 4-1 victory over the Rochester Americans at Blue Cross Arena Wednesday night, their 10th straight win to tie a franchise record set in 2000.
The cellar-dwelling Americans employed a very rare strategy by parking a forward at the far blue-line when the puck was in their own zone, and they even sprung him loose for the game's first goal from Tanner Glass.
But a team coming in with nine straight wins shut that down without major damage and had the lead by the end of the first period en route to its eighth straight road win, also a franchise record.