The Canucks were hoping for some help in a must-win game against the Oilers Thursday night. They got it. |
The Oil played an undisciplined game, taking seven minor penalties plus a five-minute major. When all was said and done, the Canucks had spent 17:33 with the man advantage – nearly a full period.
But despite that, the team capitalized just once. By the time Alex Burrows put in the Canucks’ first power play goal of the evening to cut Edmonton’s 2-0 lead to 2-1, there was only 6:57 left in the game. And it wasn’t enough to muster what would have been the comeback of the season.
“The difference in the game was the inability of our power play to get it done,” said coach Alain Vigneault. “Pretty obvious.”
The Canucks enjoyed four power plays in the first period, and generated a good number of chances. While they didn’t score, the period finished at 0-0, and the Canucks seemed to be in control of the game.
But their real opportunity came in the second period. Two minutes after Edmonton had scored the game’s first goal to take a 1-0 lead, Mathieu Roy smashed Mike Weaver headfirst into the glass, earning him a five-minute major and a game misconduct for boarding. Despite some good chances by the Sedins, the five minute penalty ran out without a goal.
After the Canucks failed to score on the major penalty, the teams were back at even strength for a mere 17 seconds before Fernando Pisani took a hooking penalty and gave the Canucks another shot with the extra man.
It still didn’t help the home team. The Canucks ended up playing a stretch of 7:17 where they had an extra man for seven full minutes, and couldn’t score.
“We had a five-minute power play there, and those are the times where you change the momentum of the game by getting one or two goals,” said Markus Naslund. “I think the emotion and energy was there. I just don’t think we’re sharp enough when we do get the chances and when we need to score.”
Vancouver, the team that takes the second-most penalties in the NHL, were on their best behaviour against the Oilers, taking just four minor penalties throughout the course of the game. One of those can hardly count, as Alexander Edler took a slashing penalty in the final 20 seconds to prevent an empty net goal. But though the Oilers spent 14:16 less time on the power play than the Canucks, they had just as much to show for it: a goal.
“At times we weren’t very good on the power play,” said Trevor Linden. “We weren’t cohesive. We did generate chances, but we have to do a better job.”
The Canucks looked more intense and played with more desperation in the third period as opposed to the second, where they spent nearly half the period with the extra man. Clearly the team felt different 5-on-5 than they did 5-on-4, said Linden. “I guess you feel everyone pushing [on the power play]. The bench is pushing, the crowd is pushing, and you maybe force some things.”
The Canucks power play has been struggling as of late, converting just three of its last 32 attempts over its last five games, good for 9%. But fixing it won’t do any good now, as they are officially eliminated from the playoff race with tonight’s loss to Edmonton.
“We played hard, had a lot of energy, outchanced them badly, lost 2-1,” said Vigneault.
“The guys laid it on the line,” said a disappointed Roberto Luongo.
But despite a roller coaster third period that made it hard for the fans to decide whether to cheer or to boo the home team, the Canucks final playoff push of 2008 couldn’t get the necessary two points.
“It’s disappointing for everyone,” said Linden. “Obviously the opportunity to compete in the Stanley Cup playoffs is a privilege and every chance you get is a chance to do what you want to do. To miss out on that is very disappointing.”
7 – games in which Vancouver has surrendered a power play goal, a season high
9 – shots by Markus Naslund
16 – months since the Oilers last beat the Canucks in regulation
14:35 – time before the Oilers registered their first shot of the game
29:18 – ice time for Kevin Bieksa, leading all skaters
The offense had plenty of chances with a healthy amount of power play time, but in the end converted just one opportunity. The rest were stifled by a clogging defense and Dwayne Roloson, who was not only on his game, but the recipient of some lucky bounces.
The Canucks defense was strong for most of the night, but did allow some dangerous rushes to a speedy Oilers team. They were saved with missed shots, as Edmonton shot wide of the target 15 times.
Special teams were clearly the difference in the game, and ultimately, the season. The Oilers got their game-winning goal with the man advantage, while the Canucks went 1-for-8, which includes a five-minute major.