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Special teams a no-show

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
Many times throughout the season special teams makes a big difference in a game.

In Vancouver’s 3-2 loss in Los Angeles on Monday night, special teams was the only difference in the game.

The Kings went 2-for-6 on the power play and the Canucks responded with a gloomy 0-for-4 effort in losing for the first time in five games.

There’s something about that fifth consecutive win that Vancouver simply can’t master as this is the fourth time this season the Canucks have collected Ws in four straight games, only to lose the fifth.

Twice foiled in trying to win five straight games in February alone, the Canucks ripped out of the gates with tires squealing against the Kings and early on it looked as though it would be high fives all around for the road warriors.

Vancouver had three quality scoring chances in the opening three minutes, but failed to convert on any of them – foreshadowing to say the least.

Thirty-five seconds later, the Kings, who barely realized the game had started, scored the game’s first goal as Los Angeles yanked the momentum to its side like a dog owner corralling its pooch.

Denis Gauthier, the Kings defenceman known for anything but goals, wristed a shot towards the Vancouver goal off a face-off win, the puck took a weird bounce and nipped Roberto Luongo’s glove en route to the back of the net.

So much for coming out strong, the Kings scored on their first shot on goal and having won 23 of 28 contests when opening the scoring going into the game, Los Angeles was sitting pretty.

“The first couple shifts were okay, then we got a bad bounce on their goal and after that we sort of fell apart,” said Taylor Pyatt.

“We were riding pretty high after the game on Saturday, but we talked about not having a let down for the last few days, but it seemed to happen there after they got their first goal.”

The Kings doubled their lead at the 12:17 mark of the period with a goal on the power play; Willie Mitchell was in the sin bin for this score and although it seems ridiculous, maybe the Canucks felt playing a seemingly overmatched Los Angeles team was fairer five-on-four.

After Alex Burrows beat Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick with a knuckler from the blueline not even five minutes into the second, the Canucks continued their parade to the penalty box collecting four more minors before the period was through.

Mats Sundin was the goat on LA’s second goal; he barely had the penalty box door closed when the Kings upped the anti to 3-1 with another special teams goal, which stood as the eventual game-winner.

Early in the third Pyatt cut the lead to 3-2 with his first goal in 10 games and ninth of the season, but in the end Vancouver resembled an unsightly hardwood floor it had so little finish.

The Canucks finally came to life in the dire final minutes of the game and with the luck Kyle Wellwood has had putting pucks away these past few weeks, its fair to grade Vancouver’s effort as Wellwoodian.

Vancouver missed what felt like hundreds of chances to tie the game up; Daniel Sedin came closest when he rang a shot off the iron late in the third.

“That evens out during the season, we’ve had some luck lately and today we didn’t have those bounces,” said Daniel, who collected an assist on Burrows’ 19th goal of the season and finished a plus-2.

“I think we’re playing a solid game right now, we have to keep playing good defensively and with the line-up we have right now we’ll keep getting chances.

“It’s a good feeling right now, although we lost today, but I think we just have to keep playing the same way.”

Little panic from the Canucks despite the tough loss and for good reason, Vancouver has won eight of its last 10 games and is more often than not displaying the form needed to win on a consistent basis.

Coach Alain Vigneault was quick to point out that his team was far from putting forth that quality effort against the Kings on this night.

“They’re a good team, they’ve got a lot of young talent, they play a strong defensive game, they don’t give you much, they block shots as good as anybody in the league and to expect to win against any team in this league, you’ve got to be on top of your game and obviously tonight the better team was LA,” said Vigneault.

“I thought the first three and half minutes we were pretty good, and then Lui gave up that bad goal and you’d think that we’d respond better, but obviously we didn’t respond real well.”

Vancouver travels to Anaheim on Tuesday looking to respond with a positive outing on Wednesday against the Ducks, a team the Canucks have already thumped twice this season.

0 Times the Canucks have won five straight games this season

– Goal for Taylor Pyatt, his first in 10 contests

  10-16-2 – Vancouver's record when giving up the game's opening goal

19 Saves for Roberto Luongo; he lost for just the second time in 14 starts

41 Vancouver's face-off percentage; Mats Sundin led the way going 10-for-17

Vancouver came out flying and it led to a Los Angeles goal.

The Canucks then sat back a little and it led to another Kings goal.

Aside from Alex Burrows' score, there wasn't much offence from the Canucks in the opening two periods, they waited until time was running low in the game before really digging deep.

Vancouver and Los Angeles finished tied in shots at 22-22.

The biggest knock against the defence on this night was that they took four of Vancouver's six penalties, a trend that will hopefully end soon.

Roberto Luongo looked shaky on both of LA's goals in the first period before picking his game up along with the team down the stretch.

Los Angeles scored twice on the power play and won by two goals - coincidence?

The Kings finished 2-for-6 on the PP with nine shots in all.

The Canucks had an opportunity to tie the game up on special teams midway through the third, but like it did all game, the power play let them down.

Vancouver only had four shots in going 0-for-4 with the man advantage.
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