Just a Bump in the Road

Monday, 30.04.2007 / 12:00 AM / News
Vancouver Canucks
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Just a Bump in the Road
That wasn't supposed to happen.

Didn't somebody tell the Ducks that the Canucks are the team that finds ways to win the close ones? It's been that way all year and it should have been that way on Sunday night, too. But the Canucks know they have only themselves to blame for the 3-2 loss in Game 3 of this series which they now trail two games to one.

The Canucks went Duck-hunting, but only managed to shoot themselves in the foot. Yet there was enough to like about the Canucks play on Sunday to think that the very same effort on Tuesday would very likely yield a different result.

Anaheim's Corey Perry may have scored the winning goal Sunday midway through the third period, but really the game was decided in the first period when the Canucks looked as good as they have at any point in the playoffs but needed a late goal just to head to the dressing room tied at one.

"I thought we played one of our best first periods of the playoffs so far. It was unfortunate that we came out of that period tied 1-1 and we didn't get really rewarded for all the hard work and chances that we had," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said of the first period in which his team held a 13-2 advantage in shots on goal.

Sometimes the shot clock can be a little misleading. But Sunday was not one of those occasions. By the coach's own count, the Canucks outchanced the Ducks 9-1 in the opening 20 minutes. Markus Naslund had an opportunity on the first shift of the hockey game. Jan Bulis appeared to have half the net to shoot at on a backhand minutes later. Bryan Smolinski had a couple of whacks at a loose puck midway through the period.

Eleven minutes after the opening face-off, the shot clock had the Canucks with a 10-1 advantage. The scoreclock, however, told a different and disheartening story: Anaheim 1, Vancouver 0.

"We outshot them by a large margin there early and got some great chances," said Naslund, who cashed in on the power play in the final minute of the first. "It was a close game and we're down a game here, but we know we can beat them. We just have to work on a few things and I think we'll be right there."

The obvious thing the Canucks have to work on is the power play. And the Canucks have a couple of days to figure out a few new wrinkles. The good thing about the effort in the past two games is that the Canucks can devote much of their practice time to special teams because there isn't much about their 5 on 5 play against Anaheim that they'll want to tinker with.

"I think we've proven that five on five, with our best performance and our best effort, we can compete against them," said Vigneault.

After the opening period of this series in which the Ducks grabbed a 3-1 lead en route to a 5-1 victory last Wednesday, the Canucks have basically skated stride for stride with Anaheim and for long stretches the Canucks have been the ones dictating the way the games are played. In the 10 periods of hockey since the first period of the series, the Ducks have held a 6-4 edge in goals and a 96-93 advantage in shots on goal.

Basically, it's been a saw-off.

And that's what makes Sunday's result so tough to swallow for the Canucks because that was the type of game they've played all year and the type of game they've found a way to win. With the game tied well into the third period - it looked like the Canucks had the Ducks just where they wanted them. But it wasn't to be.

The Ducks won the special teams battle and, as a result, won the hockey game. In the process they also regained the lead in this series. It was the Canucks first one-goal loss in regulation time since March 31st and just the second in the past two and a half months.

The Canucks had a 2-1 lead on Dallas after three games of the opening round and didn't feel all that good about the way they had played. Now, they trail the Ducks 2-1, but should, for the most-part, feel pretty well about where they stand. And there's every reason to believe that the same effort - with a little more polish around the net - will get them back on even terms after Tuesday night. If they keep it tight, they should be alright.



Jeff Paterson is a Team 1040 broadcaster and a regular contributor to the Georgia Straight. E-mail him at jeff.paterson@team1040.ca