VANCOUVER — Neither Brock Boeser nor any of the conventional superheroes could save the Vancouver Canucks from themselves on Monday as the National Hockey League team finally looked as ragged as people predicted before the season began.
With a chance to catapult themselves into their road-heavy November schedule with an excellent homestand, the Canucks instead claimed mediocrity with a 3-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings in which Vancouver wasted a two-goal, third-period comeback.
The comeback was necessary due to how sloppily the Canucks played in the first 40 minutes against an average Detroit team that had played the night before in Edmonton.
After starting their five-game homestand 2-1-1 and playing more impressively than their record indicated, the Canucks weren’t the same fast, efficient, fundamentally-sound team against the Wings.
The Canucks forced goalie Jacob Markstrom to stop a 2-on-1 with about 85 seconds remaining, then promptly served up another outnumbered scoring chance from the ensuing faceoff. Tomas Tatar scored the winner with 1:11 to go.
So instead of a 3-1-1 homestand, the Canucks went 2-2-1 and head to Calgary to open a four-game trip Tuesday minus the momentum generated from a string of solid performances last week.
“The tough thing is coming back to tie it up, then giving up that many chances,” veteran Daniel Sedin lamented. “We battled hard to get back. That says a lot about our team. But then that last seven, eight minutes, we’ve got to play a simple game and play tight. (Instead) we got a little spread out and opened things up.”
The Canucks looked open and vulnerable all game, except for their surge in the first half of the third period, when Vancouver scored goals just over two minutes apart to erase a well-earned 2-0 deficit.
Sedin, who with brother Henrik actually got to play after logging historically-low ice times two nights earlier in a 4-2 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins, started the comeback at 7:16 of the final period by sliding the puck around Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard’s outstretched leg as Thomas Vanek jammed the top of the crease.
It was Del Zotto’s first goal as a Canuck – and just the third by a Vancouver defenceman this season – since signing as a free agent on July 1. He didn’t get to enjoy it for long.
“Our puck management wasn’t nearly as good as it has been,” Del Zotto conceded. “A lot of turnovers. They’ve got a lot of speed. You turn the puck over, they’re going to put it down your throat pretty quick and they did that.
“Give credit to them. They played an ugly road game tonight. They played well and we kind of played into their hands there, turning the puck over, not taking care of it.”
The Canucks’ checking line of Brandon Sutter, Derek Dorsett and Markus Granlund, which was dominated territorially on Monday and had probably its worst game of the season, was on the ice for the winning goal although the key breakdown was due to defencemen Ben Hutton getting tripped by Tatar just inside the blue line. Tatar beat Hutton back to the slot, then scored with a shot that bounced in off Markstrom.
“He got his stick behind my leg,” Hutton said. “We clawed back and they get one late, it hurts. We weren’t as sharp as we want to be. But we showed good character coming back. That was good to see. But we’ve got to sharpen up heading into the road trip.”
After four good weeks to open their season, the Canucks have probably earned a mulligan, especially since they’ve been significantly better than most people expected after watching Vancouver finish near the bottom of the NHL the last two seasons.
But their sloppy performance comes at a bad time. Apart from squandering the chance to maintain momentum through what had been an impressive homestand, the Canucks fell off the launch pad as they start a four-game road trip and a difficult stretch in which they will play 10 of 12 games away from home.
Canuck players will sleep in their own beds for only five nights the rest of November.
Detroit made it 1-0 out of nothing early in the game. Sutter seemed surprised that Red Wing Justin Abdelkader might want to beat him to the puck on the end boards. Abdelkader did, passed into the slot and, one puck carom later, Darren Helm snapped it into the net just 4:02 after the game began.
And if this wasn’t evidence enough that the Canucks were not sharp, Chris Tanev provided further proof at 15:15 of the second when he gathered a loose puck from Martin Frk’s ricocheting shot and swept it into his own net, although Red Wing Anthony Mantha may have caused the own-goal by hitting Tanev’s stick with his own.
At that point, the idea that the Canucks might be level in the third period was as unlikely as their 7-5-2 record would have seemed back in September.
“Yeah, we fought back,” Del Zotto said. “It shows our resilience and character in here. It’s unfortunate we gave that one up with (1:11) left.
“Learning experience for us. Gotta find a way to get at least a point.”