VANCOUVER, BC (AP) - The confines of General Motors Place have been anything but comfy for the Canucks of late. They have just one home-ice win this season, and dropped another Sunday night against the Red Wings.
Jiri Hudler's highlight-reel goal in the final minute of the second period carried the Detroit Red Wings to a 3-2 victory.
With the game tied 2-2, Hudler skated around defenseman Alexander Edler down the right wing before pulling the puck quickly to his forehand and roofing a shot over the left shoulder and glove of goalie Roberto Luongo from close range at the 19-minute mark.
The goal was the Wings’ second last-minute goal of the game as Mikael Samuelsson scored with 17 seconds left in the first period to give the Wings a 2-1 lead.
“The last minute of each period is important and the first minute of each period is important,” said Ryan Kesler. “When you’re tied at the end of the first period, it kills you when you let a goal in 20 seconds left in the period.”
Tomas Holmstrom had the other goal for the Red Wings, who beat Vancouver for the second time in four nights and won their fifth straight overall, giving them an NHL-best 19 points (9-2-1) this season. Markus Naslund and Matt Cooke scored for the Canucks who are 1-6 at home, and have won two of their past seven games.
“We’re just not playing well,” said Kesler. “At times we play unbelievable and at times we struggle. Right now we’re not playing good enough hockey. I don’t know what it is, but it’s frustrating.”
Hudler's winner stood up through a wild final minute in which the Canucks thought they netted the tying tally. Taylor Pyatt's hard whack against the legs of goalie Chris Osgood knocked the puck into the net, but the goal was immediately waved off because of a quick whistle.
“It was the right call, but it was the wrong call,” said coach Alain Vigneault. “It was the right call in the sense that it shouldn’t have been a goal because you can’t push the goaltender in the net, but [the official] announced he had blown the whistle. The call that they got, we should’ve got in Detroit when they took Louie out of the net, but it was the right call, it wasn’t a goal.”
The late reprieve allowed Osgood, who got his second straight start in place of the injured Dominik Hasek, to improve to 5-0 this season with a 27-save performance.
He didn't get much work in the third period, as Vancouver managed only four shots. The first two came from outside the blue line. The Canucks' best chance came after Osgood gave the puck away with a bad pass right to Brendan Morrison with 28 seconds left. Osgood stopped Morrison's sharp-angle shot, but Pyatt smacked it in with his shot against Osgood's pads.
“We had a good effort, but it’s not good enough,” said Luongo. “The worst you can do in the situation is be happy with the effort after loss. We worked hard, but it’s not enough, that’s the bottom line.”
Luongo stopped 29 shots for the Canucks, including a glove-save on a shorthanded Zetterberg breakaway attempt in the second, but failed to secure his fifth win of the season.
“It’s disappointing,” said Luongo. “There’s not excuse for it. I think when you’re playing in front of your own crowd, there’s no excuse for losing games.”
Cooke opened the scoring 5:48 in by driving the net and slamming in a rebound, but the Red Wings tied it 12 seconds later when Holmstrom went hard to the net to convert a far-side rebound of Pavel Datsyuk's shot after Kevin Bieksa misplayed a shoot-in and Willie Mitchell was caught with his back to the play.
Henrik Zetterberg was credited with the second assist, giving him a point in all 12 games and extending his lead atop the NHL scoring list with 21 points. Samuelsson gave Detroit the lead with 17 seconds left in the first period after a bad Canucks turnover in the Red Wings end led to a long 2-on-1 with Valtteri Filppula. Samuelsson gave the puck up, but got it back quickly and, with Luongo already committed to Filppula, scored into an empty net.
“I thought we played with more intensity and we generated a little more offense than we have [lately],” said Naslund. “Still, a couple of late goals there in both the first and the second that I thought cost us the game.”
Naslund tied it with five minutes left, knocking in his own rebound after Osgood made a diving save. But the Wings responded again when Hudler scored off the rush with 59.6 seconds left in the period.
“They’re getting the goals too easy,” said Naslund. “I think all three of them were making mistakes going back in our net. We have to learn from it and especially against skilled guys like Detroit has, we have to be smarter around our blue line and their blue line.”
1 assist, +1 rating, and 8 shots on goal.
1 assist, +2 rating for the game, and 5 shots on goal.
1 assist, 22 shifts, and 2 shots on goal.
Mitchell and Bieksa, who were one the ice for both of Detroit’s first-period goals, finished the game on different pairings as Alain Vigneault split the tandem up.
“Obviously those two guys aren’t playing at the level we need them to play,” said Vigneault. “I mean, Willie Mitchell on that two-on-one – [that was] basic fundamentals: you play a two-on-one, you’ve got to take the pass. He got beat twice. That’s not the Willie Mitchell we know as a defensive specialist. He’s having a tough time and his partner’s having a tough time.”
The Canucks’ power play finished 0-4, but the penalty kill managed to hold the Wings off the board on all four of their attempts.
Henrik Sedin finished 10-4 in the face-off circle for a respectable 71 percent. Ryan Kesler won five and lost 14 draws as the Canucks finished 48 percent in the circle.
They Said It:
“The first goal was bit of a lucky one, but I think we could’ve prevented probably the last couple. We did play a good game at home - there’s a lot of positives to take out of it - but I think we probably deserved that win.” – Kevin Bieksa
“Pressure points is what you call them in hockey: you score a goal and on the next shift the other team goes down and scores on your net - that’s definitely a pressure point. The first and last minutes of periods are considered pressure points and we gave up two goals in the last minute of the first and the last minute of the second.” – Alain Vigneault
“It’s frustrating; I thought we played a much better game, but we find ways to beat ourselves still.” – Brendan Morrison.
Zetterberg's linemate Datsyuk extended his point streak to seven games (2 goals, 7 assists). ... Detroit D Niklas Kronwall missed his first game of the season because of a sore groin. Derek Meech played in his fifth NHL game as his replacement. ... Vancouver D Lukas Krajicek missed a second game after hurting his ankle when he slipped on a sidewalk on Thursday. He is scheduled for an MRI on Monday. ... Canucks LW Jeff Cowan missed his seventh game with a hip flexor injury but is expected back Thursday against Nashville.