TAMPA, Fla. – There was no afterglow to the Vancouver Canucks’ longest winning streak in six years, no warm feeling of accomplishment or satisfaction when it was over. Losing 9-2 will do that to you.
The Canucks did not look or play Tuesday like a team that had won seven straight games. After the Tampa Bay Lightning embarrassed them, the Canucks didn’t feel like one, either.
“It will take a bit to process obviously,” veteran centre Jay Beagle said. “It’s still kind of too fresh. That’s a tough game to be a part of; I’ve never really been a part of a game like that.”
Goalie Jacob Markstrom, hooked after allowing six goals in 21 shots, said: “We’ve got to own up to this one and just be really open about it to talk about, leave it behind us, and then move forward. I assume everybody’s embarrassed that we weren’t good today. We’ve just got to get back on the workhorse and get going for the rest of the road trip. It’s a big road trip for us.”
With four of five games left on their trip, the Canucks visit the Florida Panthers in South Florida on Thursday. They departed Tampa in shock.
It took them nearly three weeks to build their streak, but the Lightning obliterated it in less than three minutes by scoring four times late in the second period to turn a 2-2 game into a laugher. In one of their biggest games of the season – against a Lightning team that had also won seven straight and is a legitimate Stanley Cup contender – the Canucks played some of their worst hockey.
“It’s 2-2 with five minutes left in the period, and then all of a sudden it’s 6-2,” Canuck coach Travis Green said. “Sitting in the locker room after the second period, you could really tell how down they were. We lose a couple of faceoffs, they score. We lose a couple of pucks, and they score. A team like that, they’re going to make you pay when you make a mistake, and they did.
“I think our guys were excited to play tonight. You could feel it on the bench, and even when we made it 2-2. It’s no secret there was a little bit of magnitude with this game. Again, all of a sudden five minutes later, it’s 6-2 and you could really feel a real letdown from our group. I don’t think we even recovered into the third period. You could use the (term) emotional letdown, disheartened, whatever. It’s a good challenge now to refocus and respond in our next game.”
That lack of a winning-streak honeymoon may be the only good thing about the Canucks’ disaster.
They hadn’t allowed nine goals in a game since January 2014, when John Tortorella’s Canucks were hammered 9-1 by the Arizona Coyotes a month after Vancouver’s last seven-game winning streak.
Loui Eriksson’s redirection of Bo Horvat’s centring pass, which went in off Lightning defenceman Victor Hedman, lifted the Canucks into a 2-2 tie at 14:05 of the second period. Then Tampa scored seven straight.
The Canucks lost key faceoffs – Beagle tried to blame himself for losing those and the game – and turned over pucks, blew defensive coverages and failed to get saves from Markstrom during the second-period disintegration.
The goalie has been the Canucks’ most valuable player this season, and was spectacular during the seven-game surge, but got no help from teammates when he needed it and still had to make the walk of shame to the bench after Erik Cernak’s screened point shot eluded him at 18:02 of the middle period.
“It’s terrible,” Markstrom said. “There’s a reason you get pulled. It’s embarrassing personally, but mostly for the team, you feel like you let down your teammates. That’s never a good feeling.”
Imagine how his teammates felt.
“To hang your goalies out to dry like that…” Beagle said, unable to finish his sentence.
The Lightning got tired of scoring, but refreshed themselves in the second intermission, then poured in three more goals on reliever Thatcher Demko, who has started only once in the last month.
“They made us pay on every mistake we made,” defenceman Alex Edler said.
Elias Pettersson actually gave the Canucks a 1-0 lead at 18:58 of the first period, slipping the puck through Andrei Vasilevskiy’s pads after Steven Stamkos’ turnover. But the Lightning outscored the Canucks 9-1 after that and finished the game with an unanswered touchdown.
A 24-year-old rookie named Carter Verhaeghe scored a hat trick for the Lightning, and Brayden Point had a goal and three assists. But the most remarkable stat was that Hedman, the Norris Trophy winner, managed to finish minus-one in a seven-goal victory. And Canuck Jake Virtanen wasn’t on the ice for any of the nine goals against his team.
“We know in here our last three games haven’t been our best efforts,” Vancouver defenceman Tyler Myers, burned by Alex Killorn on what turned out to be the winning goal, said. “It was good we were finding ways to win. . . but we got brought back down to earth a little bit tonight. It wasn’t a good night for us.
“It doesn’t feel good. But we can’t dwell on it. There’s a lot of games in this league and you’ve got to rebound quick. You’ve got to show some mental toughness and get back at it the next game. Even though we’ve been winning, it’s a little bit of a wakeup call to get back to putting together an effort we know we can win with.”