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Canucks look for answers as Game 3 looms

by Kevin Woodley

VANCOUVER - The Vancouver Canucks arrived at the airport Saturday afternoon with different ideas about how to move on from a stunning loss to the San Jose Sharks the night before and start preparing for Game 3 on Sunday night.

As hard as it was to get over blowing a lead in the final minute and losing 3-2 in overtime on Friday; as devastating as it was be so close to evening the best-of-7 series only to fall behind 2-0 in the Western Conference Quarterfinal, they only have one more day to recover.

Captain Henrik Sedin thought they should "wake up today and look forward to tomorrow," moving on quickly and forgetting a loss goalie Roberto Luongo labeled "a heartbreaker."

Alexandre Burrows wanted to review the game tape, looking for things to do better.

Ryan Kesler, who scored twice in the third period to put the Canucks ahead, wanted his teammates to "channel that frustration" from Game 2.

Coach Alain Vigneault, admittedly still angry 14 hours after watching the Sharks celebrate yet again at Rogers Arena, doesn't care how they do it.

"Some might be disappointed, discouraged … however you want to call it," Vigneault said. "What we've got to do is make sure that tomorrow we're focused on what we need to do on the ice. We were much better in all the areas of our game last night. Turn the page on that game and go from there."

The team may be focused on Game 3 (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS), but after losing the first two games of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on home ice for a second straight season, the questions they are being asked were about the future if they can't pull off an unlikely comeback - and about a recent history that suggests they won't.

Since going up 2-0 in the Stanley Cup Final two years ago, Vancouver has lost 10 of 12 playoff games, including a five-game exit against the Los Angeles Kings in the first round last year. The Canucks have scored 15 goals in those 12 games, so it's understandable to wonder if this group is capable of winning four of five against a San Jose team they've yet to beat in five games this season.

"Every time we are down in a series, no one believes in us," Sedin said. "This is a city where if you win a playoff game, everyone is happy. If you lose one or two, no one is going to believe in you. … We have to believe in ourselves and do the same thing tomorrow to give ourselves a chance."

The Canucks' ability to stage a comeback - or at the very least start scoring in their attempt to do so - has become about more than just keeping this season alive. It is now also about answering increasing questions as to whether this team can still win in the postseason, questions that would have seemed absurd when the Canucks were one win short of the franchise's first Stanley Cup two years ago. Now, after failing to win a home game since and struggling to score as more and more games are decided in front of the net, those questions need to be asked.

"You lose two in a row and you are going to get questioned if you are big enough," Sedin said. "If we would have been a big team, the questions are going to be are we fast enough. We know that. We're down 2-0; no one is happy here. The fans aren't happy. No one is happy. So the questions are going to come."

The Sharks have faced similar questions over their nine straight postseason appearances, especially after a five-game exit last spring. Like the Canucks, many were focused on veteran forwards like Patrick Marleau, who failed to score last year but already has two key goals in this series, including the tying goal with 55.1 seconds left in Game 2 on Friday night.

"Yeah and they're a big team so maybe they're not fast enough," Sedin said of the Sharks, who did make moves at the NHL Trade Deadline to improve their team speed. "There's always going to be pressure on top players to produce if you are not winning. Look at San Jose."

Sedin argued it is the 12-game sample size of their struggles - not the Canucks' forwards - that is too small.

"It's too short a time period to look at us as being too small or not having enough scoring," Sedin said of last year's quick exit and the slow start to these playoffs. "If we won last night 2-1, [the Sharks] would have four goals in two games and the same questions would be asked of them. It's a fine margin between winning and losing. … We've got to go down there and win one game, and that's all we look at."

To win it, they'll need more scoring, whether it comes from a No.1 line that has seen Burrows go six playoff games without a goal and Daniel Sedin fail to find the back of the net in nine; a second-line staple like Chris Higgins, who hasn't scored in 17 playoff games and is pointless in 12; or third-liners like Mason Raymond, who is goalless in his past 16 postseason games.

"It's not good enough -- if you score a goal and a-half per game, you are not going to win games," Henrik said. "But you can only look at the way you play and the chances you get. If we were absolutely outplayed, not creating any chances, it would be tough, but you look at last night, we should have had two or three goals. We can score, we can put it in the back of the net, so it's a matter of continuing to do the same things and the goals will come."

It's a matter, Henrik said yet again, of "believing" they still can - even if a lot of others in Vancouver are now having trouble doing the same.

"It's just a matter of proving them wrong I guess," Henrik said.

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