Canucks facing new low after ‘egregious’ mistakes lead to another loss

Kevin Fiala scored and notched two assists while Cam Talbot stopped 22 shots to help the Kings crush the Vancouver Canucks 5-1.

VANCOUVER – The word of the day Thursday for the Vancouver Canucks was egregious. 

Coach Rick Tocchet used it five times in the opening two minutes of his post-game press conference to describe his team’s mistakes.

Oxford reminds us that egregious means appalling, horrifying, terrible and shocking.

All of these words except the last one applied to the Canucks in their 5-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings, a potential first-round playoff opponent for Vancouver. But, really, after the slide in the Canucks’ play the last couple of weeks, there was nothing shocking about their failure against the Kings.

Vancouver may still lead the Pacific Division, but they are 1-5-1 in its last seven games against Western Conference contenders and other teams desperately trying to get into the National Hockey League playoffs. 

The Kings had just been swept in Alberta, losing 4-2 against both the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames, but they barely allowed the Canucks an offensive sniff. The Canucks lost most of the puck battles, were unable to work through the Kings’ heavy board work and were more or less checked into submission once they fell behind 2-0 in the first 25 minutes.

“I don’t think we gave them a lot but what we gave them was egregious,” Tocchet said at the start of the post-mortem. “I mean you look at the goals, we’re all in (gambling), pushing the chips in. We’ve got a day off tomorrow; some guys need it. We’ve got to recharge and we’ve just got to get our mind right.”

After four more egregiouses, Tocchet said: “It’s an organizational thing for us right now. We are lacking some staples. We’re not chipping the body enough, I don’t think (line) changes have been great, we’re missing the net a lot, too. I think if we just correct about two or three things, get some guys get their confidence back. . . You get punched in the mouth, you’ve got to stand up and take it. You can’t be hanging your heads. I hate when guys hang their head. You’ve got to have your chest up, ready to go. We’re in a bit of a funk right now, and we’ve got to get out of it.”

[brightcove videoID=6347988657112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

Thank goodness Feb. 29 comes along only once every four years. Unfortunately, the Canucks will see the Kings three more times before the regular season ends and then, potentially, in the playoffs. 

But with the way Vancouver has played the last two weeks, not winning in regulation time since Feb. 15, generally getting outworked, and faring poorly against contending teams, the idea of facing the Oilers or Vegas Golden Knights in a playoff series is no more appealing at the moment than impaling themselves on the Kings 1-3-1 trap for a minimum of four games in late April.

After playing 13 times in 24 days to end February, the Canucks look tired physically and worn out mentally. Both their legs and their brains are functioning slowly.

Every opponent seems to have more desperation and energy.

“It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be ready for it or expect it,” veteran defenceman Ian Cole said. “I think we have just as much to play for as anybody. We want to try to secure home ice, want to get as high of a seed as we can, you want to win games and you want to go into playoffs playing well, not struggling to find our game. If we look at it with that lens, there should be no reason why teams are more engaged.”

Cole has seen this before. A two-time Stanley Cup winner who has been to the playoffs nine straight seasons with six different teams, the 35-year-old has seen most things.

“Every year there’s ebbs and flows,” he said. “Things were going great early. We were winning games we probably shouldn’t have. Now we’re not playing well. And the only way to get out of these slumps is to work through it. The only way you come out better for it on the other end is to work your way through it and understand that maybe, you know, there needs to be a little more desperation.”

Canuck captain Quinn Hughes, badly beaten on a couple of the Kings’ goals, said he would need the “24-hour rule” to take a deep breath before really analyzing what went wrong on Thursday.

[brightcove videoID=6347988659112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

The team has Friday off, then will practise and fly Saturday to Anaheim to start a three-game road trip Sunday against the Ducks.

“Every team in the league goes through it,” Hughes said. “It’s part of being an NHL hockey player, dealing with different emotions, and we’re going to have to do that.”

The video Tocchet shows them Saturday will not be flattering.

Quality scoring chances were so rare for the Canucks that they seemed like seismic events when they occurred. Conor Garland hit the post on a rebound! After Tyler Myers tried a wraparound!

When Vancouver finally put a puck past Cam Talbot – thus, identifying the Los Angeles goalie early in the third period – it was on the power play and with the Canucks trailing by two goals. 

And the satisfaction of Brock Boeser’s wrist shot that made it 2-1 at 2:55 dimmed significantly 92 seconds later when the Kings power-play scored one of its own as Anze Kopitar brilliantly passed to Kevin Fiala for a back-post tap-in after Cole had peeled away in the slot.

The Kings led 1-0 after the first period (Drew Doughty rocket) and 2-0 after the second (Kopitar rocket after an Elias Pettersson giveaway) and, honestly, never looked much troubled by the Canucks.

[brightcove videoID=6347988543112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

To make things truly egregious for them, Brandt Clarke deked Vancouver goalie Thatcher Demko to make it 4-1 at 12:31 on an outnumbered rush, and Trevor Moore fanned the puck into the net on a breakaway at 15:38. Hughes and others looked awful on both goals.

Outnumbered rushes? Breakaways? Those were unfulfilled aspirations for the Canucks.

“Maybe it’s getting harder and guys have got to realize, you know, that’s the game that’s going to be out there from here all the way to whenever,” Tocchet said. “I mean, that game is about winning puck battles and they won more than us.”

“You’re judged whether we win or lose,” Cole said. “And not only did we lose, we lost 5-1 in a game. . . we didn’t play well enough. That’s becoming the story too often. We need to fix it.”

• Amid the firestorm of reports of an impending new contract for Pettersson, the Canucks star was held pointless for the fourth time in seven games, managed only a single shot on net and was minus-three. Before speaking briefly to reporters after the game, Pettersson announced: “I’m going to talk about this game only.” More disappointment.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.