GLENDALE, ARIZ. – Derrick Pouliot said he’s not trying to hide, which is good because there’s nowhere he could.
With top defencemen Alex Edler and Chris Tanev injured, there’s just too much needed from Pouliot and the other survivours on the Vancouver Canucks’ blue line for the defenceman to sneak away unnoticed.
Unnoticed would have been an improvement on Thursday, when the 24-year-old’s stunning turnover in front of the Canucks’ net led immediately to the Arizona Coyotes’ winning goal in what turned out to be Vancouver’s 4-1 loss.
With so many key players injured – the National Hockey League team is also missing three of its top four forwards – it’s irrational to believe the Canucks would somehow maintain their .600 winning percentage from their first 10 games.
But they can’t make it easy for teams and on Thursday, Pouliot’s turnover made it easy for Clayton Keller to break a 1-1 tie at 3:55 of the third period. Nikolay Goldobin’s unlucky pass to Brendan Leipsic, who fell as the puck was coming, made it easy for Arizona on the clinching goal, a rebound by Brad Richardson at 12:16 that capped a shorthanded three-on-one.
"I kind of fumbled the puck there a little bit," Pouliot said of skating it into Coyote Alex Galchenyuk on the turnover that left Keller with a two-on-zero. "Obviously, it got picked off and it cost us the game. It’s tough to swallow for sure. Past couple of games haven’t been great. It’s not a secret; I’m not going to hide from that. You’ve got to find a way to… turn things around."
Canucks coach Travis Green said: "There’s not much else to say: It was a tough mistake. Obviously, he’s not going to feel happy about it, but mistakes happen."
Having won Wednesday with just 15 skaters at final buzzer, beating the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 in a shootout, the Canucks did lots right against the Coyotes, too. But their mistakes were too big to overcome, especially when so many Canucks are struggling to score with Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and Sven Baertschi all missing from the attack.
Pettersson (concussion) and Boeser (groin) could play Saturday when the Canucks open a four-game homestand against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Winger Loui Eriksson hasn’t scored this season and has one assist in his last nine games. Goldobin, despite regular deployment in an offensive role, is pointless in nine games. Markus Granlund and Jake Virtanen are goalless in seven games, and Antoine Roussel pointless in six.
Other than a couple of goals from Brandon Sutter and a pile from Bo Horvat, who was pointless on Thursday, the offence has disappeared since Pettersson was thrown to the ice two weeks ago in Florida.
"We’re missing a couple of guys right now, key guys," Eriksson said. "So for sure we’ve got to step up and find a way to score those goals. I think we’re making good plays and getting chances, but we need to find a way to score goals. For me, it’s tough."
One game after being stopped on a breakaway in Las Vegas, Eriksson was stymied by Arizona goalie Darcy Kuemper on a first-period two-on-one after a perfect return pass from Horvat.
"I had more to shoot on than where I put it," Eriksson lamented. "It’s too bad because I can’t find a way to score a goal right now. Of course, it’s frustrating. You always want to score goals and right now they’re not coming. It was a great pass by Bo and the goalie made a good save, but I had more (net) to shoot at."
Goldobin had two shots on net, including a clear look on a two-on-one, and has fired 19 shots since scoring in the season-opener against the Calgary Flames on Oct. 3. His most notable shot Thursday drilled Sutter on the back of the leg in the third period. The Canuck hobbled to the bench but finished the game.
"A lot of guys down and obviously I have pressure to create chances, but didn’t happen today," Goldobin said. "Frustrating. Today I had a couple of chances. I’m going to stick with it, I guess. Luck will come."
Pouliot and Troy Stecher hit posts behind Kuemper.
Minor-league call-up Darren Archibald, in the lineup due to Baertschi’s concussion, deflected Stecher’s point shot for Vancouver’s only goal, which made it 1-1 early in the second period. It offset Coyote Alex Goligoski’s backhand that leaked through Canucks goalie Anders Nilsson after Vancouver defenceman Michael Del Zotto took a terrible angle on the scorer.
"We played a good hockey game," Green said. "Even after the (Keller) goal, I thought we made a strong push. You’re going to have nights where you lose but you play well, and I thought tonight was one of those."