For the second time in as many games the Vancouver Canucks lost to the Edmonton Oilers, this time suffering a 2-0 defeat Tuesday night at Rexall Place in Edmonton, to complete and home-and-home series.
The loss, which gives the Canucks back-to-back regulation losses for the first time since November 20th & 21st, snapped a franchise-best nine game road-winning streak.
How can the Presidents’ Trophy winners, the only team with over 50 victories with the second most goals-for and least goals against with the NHL’s best power play and second best penalty kill, lose to a team in the bottom three of the league in all the aforementioned categories?
For starters, the Canucks came out flat, again, as they were outshot 7-1 in the first 10 minutes. That led to the Oilers first goal of the game, the eventual game-winner, which Ryan Jones scored with three seconds left on the clock.
Whether it was bad luck or a bad finish, the Canucks shrugged off giving up the game’s opening goal for the fourth straight outing and rebounded with 14 shots in the second.
That’s when Edmonton keeper Devan Dubnyk came to life.
Dubnyk, who allowed just a single goal to the Canucks Saturday in Vancouver, was again up to the task stopping all the rubber thrown at him in the middle stanza; he was equally up to the task in the third period stopping eight shots, and 26 overall, for his second career shutout.
Edmonton put the game away with less than three minutes to play when Magnus Paajarvi beat Roberto Luongo on the power play. With Raffi Torres assessed an elbowing major, fighting major and 10-minute misconduct and Aaron Rome and Alex Burrows both in the penalty box for cross checking, the Oilers feasted on the Canucks with a four-minute 5-on-3 that Paajarvi eventually ended.
So where does this leave the Canucks? Is it time to panic?
The man who knows them best doesn't think so.
“We’ve got a very veteran group that’s very mature and they’ve always known what to do and I’m very confident this group will be fine,” said Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault, who complimented Edmonton on another strong outing.
“You’ve got to give a lot of credit to Edmonton, they’re playing well, they’re playing hard and they’re playing pretty tight hockey right now and there wasn’t a lot of room on the ice.”
Back-to-back losses coming this late in the season, losses to the Oilers nonetheless, will have pieces of the sky falling in Vancouver in the next few days, but by next Wednesday it’ll all be forgotten.
That’s when the real season starts and effort and intensity will surely match the meaningfulness of the games.
Roberto Luongo didn’t play a full 60 minutes against Edmonton, but it wasn’t because of a lack of effort.
Luongo made way for Cory Schneider with 29 seconds remaining in the third period, a strategic move by coach Vigneault that has Schneider, who now has 24 appearances on the season, one away from sharing the William M. Jennings Trophy with Luongo.
Since 1982, the William M. Jennings Trophy has been awarded to, according to the NHL.com, "the goalkeeper(s) having played a minimum of 25 games for the team with the fewest goals scored against it. Winners are selected based on regular-season play."
The Canucks, who currently have 183 goals against, are in line to allow the fewest scores and should Schneider sneak in goal once more, he and Luongo would follow in the footsteps of 16 sets of teammates who have shared the award.
Last year Martin Brodeur allowed just 191 goals to capture the award.
Mikael Samuelsson returned to the line-up after missing six games with a leg injury; this was just the fifth time this season the Oilers have won back-to-back games; historically, Edmonton has outscored Vancouver 409-314 at Rexall Place.