For the fourth time in 14 games the Vancouver trailed heading into the final frame Tuesday night at the Bell Centre and for the fourth time in 14 games the Canucks were unable to fight their way back, losing to the Montreal Canadiens 2-0.
Andrei Markov scored in the first period and Roman Hamerlik provided some late insurance as Montreal snapped Vancouver’s six-game winning streak, a storyline all too familiar to the Canucks, who had won seven consecutive games before losing to the Canadiens in Montreal last February.
On that night it was Jaroslav Halak standing on his head; this time around Carey Price did the damage stopping all 34 shots faced, including 19 in the third period, for his sixth career shutout and his first win against his hometown team.
The Canucks fall to 2-4-1 on the road and 8-4-2 overall and a big reason for that was the team’s play with the man advantage. Vancouver's top ranked power play went 0-for-4 with four shots, while Montreal’s power play, ranked last in the NHL, was able to convert on one of four opportunities.
It was just one of those nights and not at all how Vancouver envisioned beginning a five-game road trip, the team’s longest of the season.
In a battle of teams combining for a 13-1-1 record when scoring first, the game’s opening goal was of the utmost importance and Markov was thrilled to put home his first of the season to give Montreal a 1-0 lead 6:53 into the first period.
Thomas Plekanec tried to hit Brian Gionta with a pass at the side of the Vancouver goal, the puck plinkoed around the crease before Markov was able to beat Roberto Luongo.
Overall the Canucks netminder was stellar in his 11th start of the season making 27 saves, the only other blemish on the night for Luongo was a third period power play goal where Hamerlik snapped a shot over his shoulder to put Vancouver down two goals.
The Canucks weren’t without scoring chances of their own, especially from Christian Ehrhoff. The defenceman accounted for nearly a third of Vancouver’s shot total as he hit Price with nine shots, one off his career-high of 10 from a 3-2 overtime win over the Nashville Predators on March 11, 2006, when the San Jose Sharks d-man scored the game-winner.
Ehrhoff had a great scoring chance from the slot late in the third, but was denied by the pad of Price.
Thirteen Canucks finished with at least one shot, including Dan Hamhuis, who returned to the Vancouver line-up for the first time in eight games. In 19:50 of ice time, Hamhuis had two shots and a hit.
With Dan Hamhuis returning to the line-up, Keith Ballard was a healthy scratch for the first time in his career; the Canucks have lost three straight games at the Bell Centre dating back to February 24, 2009; Rick Rypien challenged Hal Gill to a fight early in the first period, but Gill, presumably recalling the last time the two tussled, turned down the generous offer.