Vigneault was still fuming over the Canucks lack of effort in a 2-0 loss to the Dallas Stars Saturday night. He was exasperated that a 3-1 Vancouver lead in the NHL Western Conference quarter-final has evaporated and his team has been forced to play a winner-take-all Game 7 Monday night (9 p.m. ET).
“It’s got nothing to do with confidence or execution,” Vigneault said through gritted teeth after the Canucks practice. “It’s got to do with hard work.”
“Our guys just didn’t work and compete. That’s not acceptable. They are aware of it.”
Vigneault wasn’t making any apologies for comments he made Saturday when he questioned his team’s work ethic and dedication.
” When we don’t work like we did last night, I’m not going to test your intelligence, I’m not going to test the fans’ intelligence,” said Vigneault. “I’m going to come out and say what it is.”
The players the Canucks expect to score goals, veterans like Markus Naslund and Daniel and Henrik Sedin have disappeared.
The Sedins have gone five games without a point and didn’t have a shot on goal Saturday. Naslund also hasn’t scored since Game 1.
The Canucks haven’t scored a goal in two games and the Vancouver power play is an anaemic 1-for-28 on the series.
“We have to get our intensity back,” said Henrik Sedin. “We have to show more poise with the puck.”
Vigneault’s surly nature rubbed off on some of his players.
Defenceman Mattias Ohlund bristled when asked about Vigneault’s assertion his best players must be better.
“That’s no secret,” said Ohlund, who was uncharacteristically terse in his comments. “For any team to win your best players have to be your best players.”
“It’s a fact.”
Goaltender Roberto Luongo seemed irritated when reminded the Canucks have blown two chances to end the series.
“It doesn’t matter,” said Luongo. “It’s Game 7. We have to win. That’s the bottom line.”
“It doesn’t matter if we should have ended it two games ago. This is where we are right now and we have to deal with it.”
The Stars have trailed 3-1 in a series 12 times in franchise history, but this is the first time the team has ever forced a Game 7.
“If we keep playing like we have been the last couple of games, we’ll be all right,” said goaltender Marty Turco, who hasn’t allowed a goal in 131 minutes, 52 seconds.
“We don’t feel like we’re David walking into a situation. They’re great fans who go crazy and give their team as much of an advantage as you could imagine on home ice. But we’ve played well and know we can win up there. We understand this is the biggest challenge.”
Coach Dave Tippett said defenceman Sergei Zubov will be a game-time decision with a “torso injury.” Captain Brenden Morrow said he will play after getting slashed behind the knee by Alex Burrows.
Tippett said the Stars can’t relax just because they’ve forced a deciding game.
“The situation hasn’t changed for us,” he said. “It’s exactly the same as it’s been the last two games. They were Game 7 for us too.”
“We have to play with that desperation and do whatever it takes to win and stay alive.”
Recent history isn’t on Vancouver’s side. The Canucks have lost the last two Game 7’s they played, both at home.
Vancouver is also haunted by their 2003 collapse against the Minnesota Wild. The Canucks led that series 3-1, but couldn’t put the Wild away and ended up losing the deciding game 4-2, even though they had a 2-0 lead at one point.
Naslund said history doesn’t dedicate the future.
“We’re looking to bounce back and play a strong game,” said Naslund. “I can guarantee you we are going to play a hard game.
“When we have our backs against the wall we usually respond well.”
In their history the Canucks are 4-4 in Game 7s. The Stars have a 5-5 record in Game 7s and are 2-1 since the franchise moved to Dallas from Minnesota in 1993. The Stars haven’t played a Game 7 on the road since the move, but were 3-2 while in Minnesota.
The Stars hope to join an exclusive group. In playoff history, 214 clubs have faced 3-1 series deficits and only 20 have come back to win.
Vancouver has advanced past the first round of the playoffs only twice since losing the 1994 Stanley Cup final.
In the dressing room, the Canucks players were all saying the right things about wanting to play better and keeping their season alive.
Vigneault is more interested in actions.
“It doesn’t matter if I come here today and tell you I have a lot of confidence in them,” he said.
“It doesn’t mater what I say here today or what they say in the room. The only thing that matters is what happens on the ice.”