January 17, 1989, was the last time the Canucks beat the Philadelphia Flyers on home ice and they were unable to end that nearly 20-year-old streak Tuesday night at GM Place.
The Canucks did just about everything right, they were speedy, they were punishing and they were determined, but it just wasn’t enough as Vancouver was upended by Philly 3-2.
This game can be filed under close but no cigar
as the Canucks once again dropped a tough home contest due to a lack of scoring.
The opportunities were there, they were in abundance actually. Vancouver had ample chances to even this game following Scott Hartnell’s eventual game-winning goal early in the second period. Ryan Kesler
was the only Canuck to score from that point on; he deflected an Alex Burrows shot top-shelf at the 11:56 mark of the second for his ninth goal of the season.
“There’s not a lot to say about it, you’ve got to capitalize on your opportunities,” said Mason Raymond
, one of seven Canucks with at least three shots on goal.
“For us, it seemed like in the third period we were getting more chances, but they weren’t going in.”
“It was a good game,” added Coach Alain Vigneault. “We were disciplined, we battled hard, missed some good chances. I thought we should have gotten a point out of it, but we didn’t.”
While it was the offence that came up short in landing Vancouver its fifteenth loss of the season, the state of affairs in net for the Canucks was simply bizarre and didn’t help anything.
Curtis Sanford started the game for the Canucks, his third straight start and fourth in the last five games, but after only twenty minutes of play he pulled himself.
It wasn’t the two goals against that were to blame, it turns out Sandman tweaked his groin during the team’s morning skate and despite feeling good during warm-up, the injury only worsened as the game went on.
Backup Cory Schneider
was thrust into goal for the final two periods and he was sensational recording 19 saves – little did he know he was auditioning for the starting role.
In reaction to Sanford injuring his groin in the morning, Vancouver General Manager Mike Gillis and VP of Player Personnel & Assistant General Manager Lorne Henning racked up a serious long distance bill in trying to land the Canucks some depth in net.
A trade with the Los Angeles Kings was announced during the first intermission; the Canucks acquired netminder Jason LaBarbera for a seventh round pick.
Sanford will now be placed on Vancouver’s IR, a list that already includes Taylor Pyatt (foot), Sami Salo
(ribs), Ryan Johnson (finger & foot), Roberto Luongo
(groin) and Rick Rypien (sports hernia).
The good news from all of this is that Schneider played exceptionally well against one of the most versatile offences in the league.
“I was ready,” explained Schneider about his mental preparations heading into the game. “I went about my business as if I was going to play and sure enough in the second I had to jump in there.”
He allowed the game-winning goal just 2:36 into the second, but with no warm-up to speak of, it’s difficult to fault him on that.
“Unfortunately the first shot went in, it was kind of a bad bounce off O’Brien’s stick, but I was able to settle down and keep the guys in the game and that’s all you can ask for I guess.”
Schneider’s highlight reel of saves included not one, but two jaw-dropping breakaway saves on Hartnell.
The first came with just over two minutes to play in the second period. Hartnell snagged the puck at Vancouver’s blueline and walked in untouched throwing a tricky backhander towards Schneider.
With Vancouver only down a goal and pressing for the equalizer, this snappy glove save gave the team a frozen car battery jolt.
With the clock working against the Canucks Schneider ripped Hartnell’s heart out again, this time with 6:57 remaining in the final period.
Sent in again from the Vancouver blueline, Hartnell gave a shoulder shrug before going backhand-forehand-backhand. His shot, seemingly destined to cross the goal line, was intensely followed by Schneider who stretch his left pad as far as humanly possible to keep the puck out.
After a save like that it’s anyone’s guess as to how Schneider’s groin is still intact.
“I thought he might shoot just because the last time he tried to go backhand, but he made a pretty good move and I just reached back as far as I could and fortunately I got a piece of it with my toe and I was able to cover it up,” said Schneider.
Without the heroics of Schneider, the Canucks wouldn’t have even had a chance to steal this game from one of the Eastern Conference’s elite teams.
“Cory played great tonight, stood on his head, gave us a serious chance coming down the stretch there, unfortunately we came up a little short,” said Raymond.
As the curse of the Broad Street Bullies continues in Vancouver, so too does the revolving door in net.
With Luongo and Sanford now both week-to-week with groin injuries, it’s up to Schneider and LaBarbera to keep the Canucks afloat.
“Injuries are part of the game,” shrugged Vigneault.
“The goaltender that we picked up, he’s played some really good games against us in the past and he’s an NHL goaltender that is going to get an opportunity to play.”
Hopefully one of them takes that opportunity and runs with it.