For the third time in four games – no jokes – the Canucks lost a defenceman and were forced to play a man down in a 3-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues Monday night at the Scottrade Center.
The loss is Vancouver’s second in three games to open a three-game road trip and it played out with St. Louis going 2-for-5 on the power play before riding goaltender Jaroslav Halak right to the final horn.
Even more worrisome than the Canucks loss was the player they lost as blueliner Andrew Alberts broke his wrist blocking a shot late in the second period, which coach Alain Vigneault confirmed would keep the hulking defenceman out of the lineup indefinitely.
Vancouver is now without the services of Dan Hamhuis, Keith Ballard, Alex Edler, Lee Sweatt and Alberts heading into Tuesday’s Northwest Division matchup with the Minnesota Wild.
On a night when many were expressing how deep their love is for one another, the Canucks began wondering how deep their defensive pool gets.
Up next from the Manitoba Moose is Yann Sauve. The 20-year-old has appeared in 20 games on the farm this season, collecting three assists over that stretch.
“Injuries are part of the game and as a group you’ve got to pull together and find ways to win hockey games,” said Vigneault. “Obviously we’re getting tested right now, but we’re going to fly to Minnesota and have a couple of good meetings tomorrow and come up with a plan that’s going to give us an opportunity to win tomorrow night.”
For the Canucks to avoid their first back-to-back regulation losses since November 20 & 21st, 2010, they’ll have to be better on special teams. It’s not often they lose that battle, but it’s the reason the Blues swiped a win from the NHL’s point leaders.
Vancouver’s saw its streak of 36 consecutive penalties against without allowing a power play goal snapped just eight seconds into St. Louis’ man advantage just over five minutes into the first when Andy McDonald beat Roberto Luongo for his 10th goal of the season.
Henrik Sedin finished off a fortunate bounce off a Sami Salo shot to even the game at 1-1 midway through the frame before the Blues replied 2:02 later when Luongo mistakenly gave the puck to Alex Steen and gave the home team a 2-1 lead.
Late in the second Patrik Berglund’s 15th goal put St. Louis in front 3-1 and despite an early goal from Jannik Hansen, his 7th, 1:47 into the third, the Blues withstood the Canucks push, backed by an exceptional game from Luongo.
After going 16-0-5 in 21 starts over a 70 game stretch, Luongo finally lost in regulation and it only made sense it was to St. Louis, the same team he last lost to in regulation on December 5th, 2010.
Luongo will recover and so will the Canucks, so long as they can ice at least two defencemen on the backend.
“It’s been unfortunate lately,” said Jannik Hansen, who was offered an empty net on his goal off a Raffi Torres tip from a Christian Erhoff point shot. “At the start of the season it seemed like we were a little more fortunate, but here the last couple of games it seems like they’re dropping every game. It’s unfortunate for Alberts and losing him, he’s a big physical D-man so again, it’s a tough loss.”
In the words of philosopher Joe Dirt, “Ya gotta keep on, keepin' on,” and the Canucks can right the ship Tuesday night.
“When you lose you want to get right back out there and get a clean sheet,” added Hansen. “We haven’t been lucky in Minnesota so far, I don’t know what’s been the cause of that, but it’s something we can change tomorrow.”
The Canucks fall to 5-11-4 in Valentine’s Day games and to 4-4-2 in the first of back-to-back games; Alex Burrows was able to play despite discomfort in his ankle after blocking a shot Saturday night against the Calgary Flames: “The trainers did a good job, I spent the afternoon with Bernie (Mike Burnstein), he was my Valentine’s sweetheart the whole afternoon, and I worked on it with lots of treatments and it feels pretty good right now.”