For the second consecutive game the Vancouver Canucks lost a defenceman to injury in the first period, but unlike two nights ago in Washington, the Canucks were unable to overcome it losing 4-0 to the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Andrew Alberts suffered a shoulder injury in the first period after being hit by Brad Staubitz, leaving Vancouver with five defencemen for most of the game. Minnesota took advantage as Andrew Brunette, Martin Havlat, Matt Cullen and John Madden scored for the Wild, whle Anton Khudobin stopped 32 shots for this first win and first shutout of the season as Minnesota snapped a three game losing streak.
The Canucks suffered their second loss in three games, both coming via shutout, both with Cory Schneider between the pipes. In his second consecutive loss, Schneider made 21 saves, 11 in the opening period to keep Vancouver in the game, but like the team in front of him, the bounces didn’t go his way.
Neither did the calls.
On Minnesota’s opening goal of the game, scored on the power play 3:31 into the second period, Schneider was the recipient of a terrible call.
During a scramble in Vancouver’s crease, Schneider appeared to have covered the puck before it was hacked out of his glove by Pierre-Marc Bouchard, allowing Brunette to poke it in.
According to NHL rule 85.3 Puck out of Sight: "Should a scramble take place or a player accidentally fall on the puck and the puck be out of sight of the Referee, he shall immediately blow his whistle and stop the play." In this instance referee Dean Morton allowed play to continue and allowed Minnesota to take a 1-0 lead.
It was foreshadowing to how the game would play out for Vancouver.
“It’s a big point in the game getting the first goal and getting some momentum and I was pretty certain I was on top of it and covered it, I don’t know how he still saw the puck and didn’t blow the whistle,” said Schneider.
“It is what it is and sometimes they go your way and sometimes they don’t.”
On this night it didn’t, and that score sparked a two-goal second period to put the Wild up 2-0 after 40 minutes. Despite themselves, the Canucks still had life heading into the third period, but that was snuffed out early on.
With Madden in the box for holding, Vancouver had a golden opportunity to get back into the game on the power play and instead gave up a shorthanded goal to Cullen to all but seal the team’s 10th loss of the season.
It was also the second time the Canucks have been unable to find the scoresheet in three games.
“We didn’t help ourselves at all, that’s kind of what it came down to,” said Keith Ballard. “They played a good game, their goalie made some good saves, they had a lot of blocked shots and there’s a few scrambles in front of their net that probably could have gone either way and they went their way tonight.
“That being said, I don’t think we created enough traffic in front and didn’t get enough second and third opportunities.”
Led by Ryan Kesler’s four shots, every Canuck had at least one look at Khudobin, except Tanner Glass, Aaron Volpatti and Alberts, who played only 1:46 on five shifts before being forced to leave the game.
Although the Canucks have struggled offensively of late, coach Alain Vigneault is far from pushing the panic button. Certain players need to play better and they will, it’s all part of the ebb and flow of a long season.
“Our concern every game is the same thing, it’s to find ways to win games,” said Vigneault. “Yes we do have a couple of guys right now that offensively, we all feel and they feel for sure that they can contribute and play better, and I think that’s a good sign.
“We’ve been winning hockey games and we’ve still got room for improvement and that’s what we’ve been talking about since day one of the year.”
On the referee explaining Brunette’s goal:
“Referee said that the puck was loose and I do agree with him that the puck was loose after Bouchard pitch forked our goalie and swatted it out of hands. He was on the wrong side of the play, didn’t see it right, and obviously I don’t agree with the call.”
On Vancouver’s flat start to the first period:
“They came out real strong and the only reason we were in it after 10 minutes was because of the way Cory played, he played outstanding, I thought we got a little bit better in the second half of that first and I thought that would give us an opportunity to find our legs and find our brains to get going, but for whatever reason, both weren’t there and Cory tried his best to keep us in the game, but obviously that wasn’t enough.”
On the Canucks struggling at the Xcel Energy Center:
“It’s got nothing to do with this rink, we’re usually a team that comes out real well and real strong, that’s been our trademark for the last couple of months and tonight we had an off night, it’s as simple as that.”
With an injury expected to keep defenceman Aaron Rome out of the line-up for the foreseeable future, Vancouver recalled defenceman Chris Tanev from the Manitoba Moose. He recorded nine points (1-8-9) and 16 penalty minutes through 39 games played with Manitoba in his rookie AHL season. He could make his NHL debut Tuesday in Colorado against the Avalanche.