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The slump continues

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
The English language simply does not contain enough words to describe how the Vancouver Canucks turned a heavenly matchup into a hellish result.

Fresh off a weeklong break, the Canucks hosted the Nashville Predators on Wednesday night in what appeared to be a bit of kickback from the NHL for earlier scheduling headaches.

If there’s a team that could have helped Vancouver stop the bleeding, it’s Nashville. After all, the Predators were the second worst team in the Western Conference coming in, a fumbling group that was 29th in the league for goals for and on the power play.

That’s without even mentioning the fact that the Canucks had owned the Predators this season to the tune of three wins in three outings.

Still, with all the stats a mathematician could come up with backing them, the Canucks lost 5-3 to extend what seems like a season-long losing streak to seven games, eight games on home ice.

This loss, much like the previous six, started with Vancouver crawling out of the dressing room.

With only four shots in the period, the Canucks were offensive on offence, which led to a 1-0 lead for the Predators through 20 minutes.

Then came the fireworks.

Alex Burrows, Sami Salo and Ryan Johnson all scored in the opening 6:58 of the second period as the Canucks and GM Place were alive for the first time in a long time.

Then came the penalties.

Mattias Ohlund was the first culprit, Mats Sundin the second, then Ohlund was back where he started. Two power play chances for the Predators late in the second, then one early in the third – all three of which they capitalized on.

Then came the booing.

“When you’re up 3-1 with five minutes to go in the second period, there’s no way that we should go into the locker room tied,” said a frustrated Roberto Luongo.

On this night, the Canucks found a way to lose.

“If you win a lot you find ways to win so it’s back and forth,” said Kevin Bieksa.

“Right now the penalties are hurting us and they hurt us today and we have to find a way to stay out of the box.”

Finding a way to produce more offence would have also helped against the Predators. The Canucks finished with 27 shots, 11 fewer than the Preds, but a lot of the chances came from the outside without much traffic in front, making life easy for Pekka Rinne.

The players are standing pat on their effort level and it’s tough to dispute that, but at the end of the game it’s the score that matters and Vancouver is still stuck on two wins in 2009 with zero at home.

“The effort is there, the preparation is there, for whatever reason we’re just not getting the results right now,” said Bieksa.

“It’s a frustrating time in here, we’re trying to put our minds around it, but again didn’t have a great start. But we had a great second period and we just let them back in the game, that’s what it comes down to.”

After all that has gone on with the Canucks this month, you’d expect Alain Vigneault to finally get red in the face when discussing his team. No dice; he is putting holy men to shame with the faith he is maintaining in Vancouver.

“I’ve got a firm belief in this group, I believe in these players,” said Vigneault. “Some people might just say that I’m saying that, but I think we’ve got a good team, I think guys intentions are good, I think they want to do well for themselves, for their teammates and the community.

“Obviously it’s not showing right now, but I don’t doubt for one second their intentions.”

All for one and one for all, as they say. Vigneault still isn’t close to pushing the panic button maintaining the Canucks will play their way out of this most odorous of funks.

“We are not indifferent; nobody in that dressing room is taking this lightly. We understand everybody’s frustration and everybody’s disappointment, but from the coaches and players stand point, we’re going to stick very tight together and we’re going to work as hard as we can to get back on the right track.”

Best hurry, this one seems to be headed towards a dead end.

0 – Wins for the Canucks in their last seven games overall

0 – Wins for the Canucks in their last eight home games

– Unassisted goals, Alex Burrows and Ryan Johnson each scored on their own

7 – Penalties taken by the Canucks, seven too many

38 – Shots for the Predators who swamped the Canucks with shots in waves

There were moments in the second period when all seemed right again.

The Canucks looked masterful is netting three straight goals and taking a commanding lead.

The penalties put the team on its butt and the offence never recovered.

Once the line juggling began all chemistry was lost.

Vancouver was outshot by Nashville 38-27.

Roberto Luongo wasn't himself and neither were the troops in front of him.

It didn't help that the Canucks were in penalty trouble for most of the contest as they played from behind for the entire third period.

There's no debating that special teams made the difference in this one.

Vancouver gave up three power play goals on seven attempts to Nashville's 29th ranked PP unit.

The Canucks were 1-for-5 overall with seven shots for.
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