For the first time since December 5, 2010, the Canucks dropped a regulation game, losing to the New York Rangers 1-0 at Madison Square Garden Thursday night.
Vancouver’s streak of 14-0-3 over its last 17 games: done; 7-0-1 on the road in that span: no more; points in 10 straight road games: over; a 4-0-0 record vs. New York since the lockout: au revoir.
But it wasn’t due to a lack of effort.
The Canucks threw everything they had at Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and he was up for the test stopping all 31 shots faced for his league-leading fifth shutout of the year and the 30th of his career.
New York newcomer Wojtek Wolski scored the game’s only goal, his first with the Ranger, a power play marker, midway through the second period to give the home team a 1-0 led it wouldn’t relinquish.
The Rangers sported an impressive 17-0-0 record when leading after 40 minutes coming in and despite 11 shots from the Canucks in the third, many in the late stages with six men on the ice, they were able to increase that number to 18 wins.
Although Lundqvist getting the W, Cory Schneider went toe-to-toe with the Rangers keeper, stopping 34 shots in his first regulation loss of the season. Schneider is now 8-1-2 on the year, a record that easily could have remained flawless had Vancouver carried its play from the first period into the second.
In the middle frame the Canucks failed to score on a 5-on-3 lasting 47 seconds and it brought the Rangers and their fans to life. It was the turning point of a game where Vancouver didn’t get any breaks.
“A lot of times those are game deciding and tonight it was again, if we score there we’re right back in the game and we’ve got the momentum, but when you kill off a 5-on-3, you keep the momentum or get the momentum, so that was a tough one,” said Henrik Sedin, whose Canucks were shutout for just the second time this season.
“I thought we battled hard and we played a decent game,“ he added. “They block a lot of shots, we had a lot of chances to make the play to the open guy, but they block a lot of shots, you’ve got to give them credit.”
Coach Alain Vigneault was quick to pass credit to Schneider, who gave Roberto Luongo the night off between starts against the New York Islanders and Washington Capitals.
Schneider was hit with only eight shots in the first, but over the final two periods the Rangers sent 17 his direction. Wolski’s goal came off a scramble in the crease and other than that Schneider held the fort, especially during the third when Marian Gaborik broke in alone on a breakaway trying to give the Rangers a 2-0 advantage.
“He got it up pretty good on the blocker side, I didn’t know what he was going to do, but I stayed with him,” said Schneider, after his first career appearance at MSG.
“They’re a good defensive team, they block a lot of shots and Lundqvist is one of the best in the game. He didn’t get a lot inside and in tight, but when he did he was there to make the saves and that’s how it goes sometimes.”
The Canucks have little time to contemplate this loss with a visit to Washington to face the Capitals Friday. Vancouver fans pushing the panic button after only one loss take note: the Canucks remain the only team with a single digit in the loss column and the only team above 60 points.
On running into a hot goaltender…
"There were two hot goaltenders on the ice tonight, it was a battle from start to finish. Five-on-five I thought both teams competed real hard and didn’t give the opposition a lot of space and time and obviously they were able to get a power play goal where we had a couple of opportunities, but their goaltender made some really good saves. Good game, both teams gave it their best shot and tonight they were able to win the game."
On New York effectiveness down low blocking shots…
"They’re the second or third best team as far as blocking shots and they try and outnumber you down low very quickly, so what you have to do is use your points and try to get some shots through. A combination of outnumbering down low quickly and blocking shots is a good defensive weapon. Add that to the way their goaltender played tonight and it’s a very solid hockey team."
On the play of Cory Schneider…
"He was as good as their guy, except that they got one past him. It was a great goaltending performance from both guys."
Coach Vigneault juggled some of Vancouver’s lines versus New York as Jeff Tambellini appeared on the fourth line with Tanner Glass and Aaron Volpatti (playing in place of Alex Bolduc), while Jannik Hansen skated with Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond on the second trio; the Canucks have a goals for and against differential of plus-42, the highest in the NHL; Vancouver is now 4-2-0 in its last six games at MSG.