From 1970 to late 1979, the Canucks were winless in 21 consecutive home games against the Canadiens, and in the first 10 minutes of Montreal’s 3-2 win Tuesday night at Rogers Arena, Vancouver reverted back to old ways.
David Desharnais and Brian Gionta scored goals 67 seconds apart before the first period was 8 minutes old and the Canadiens outshot the Canucks 14-1 before the home team got into the game.
By that time, it was almost too late.
The Canucks, winless when trailing after 20 minutes at 0-6-4 coming into the game, snuck one past Carey Price when Henrik Sedin beat him on the power play 3:27 into the second, but Andrei Kostitsyn restored the two-goal Canadiens lead and Montreal was able to withstand immense third period pressure, including a Mikael Samuelsson power goal early on, to snap an eight-game losing streak in Vancouver.
The recipe for disaster was simple on this night and clear to everyone in the Canucks dressing room afterwards.
“Going down 2-0 is not something we want to do, we don’t want to spot teams two goals,” said Ryan Kesler, who won 25 of 29 faceoffs.
“Give them credit, they came out hard and for whatever reason, our battle level wasn’t there. After that 10 minutes, I thought we dominated the game and you’ve got to give it to their goalie, he stood on his head and made the saves he needed to.”
The Canucks recovered from being outshot 14-1 early on to pepper Price over the final 50 minutes by outshooting the Canadiens 38-11. That, according to Henrik Sedin, who recorded his 15th goal of the season, is little solace to take in dropping a fourth game in eight outings.
It all comes back to the start and the Canucks simply didn’t bring it.
“Our start wasn’t good enough, we were down 2-0 after a few minutes and that’s tough to come back from,” said Henrik. “We battled hard after that and score a few on the power play, but if you let in three on 5-on-5, it’s tough to win games.
“I’m not sure,” he replied trying to explain the rough beginning. “I think we had our legs, we were moving well, just a few let downs there, the first goal where they made a great pass, but those are the ones we have to have.”
Roberto Luongo kept this game from being blown wide open in Montreal’s favour when Vancouver was still finding itself; big saves on Gionta and Max Pacioretty gave the Canucks a chance to win a third straight game on home ice. The loss marks his first at Rogers Arena in his last 15 starts (11-1-3) and his career mark drops to 3-4-0 against Montreal.
Luongo held the fort, but it wasn’t as easy as it looked for the Canucks keeper.
“They were throwing everything at the net and generating a lot of chaos, especially when you look at their second goal,” said Luongo, who finished with 22 saves. “There’s two guys in the crease battling, the puck squirts out and they get another couple of chances after that, that’s the way goals are scored in this league, you’ve got to go to the paint and you’ve got to make something happen in there.”
It wasn’t a happy return, but it was a return nonetheless.
Dan Hamhuis and Keith Ballard were back on defence for the Vancouver Canucks in Tuesday’s loss to the Montreal Canadiens; Hamhuis saw action for the first time after missing five games with a concussion, while Ballard hit the ice following a six-game stint in the press box.
Both blueliners were eased back into things as Hamhuis played 19:12 on 26 shifts and Ballard racked up 16:48 of ice time on 24 shifts.
Coach Alain Vigneault was optimistic about their play, despite their lack of practice coming into the game.
“I thought both of them, considering the short amount of time that they were with the team, I thought they were fine,” said Vigneault.
Mikael Samuelsson appeared in his 600th NHL game versus Montreal; Ryan Kesler’s 25 faceoff wins was the same amount as the entire Canadiens team mark; Tom Cruise and Simon Pegg were in attendance, the pair are in Vancouver filming Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol.