The Canucks wanted to put the frustration and disappointment of Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Anaheim Ducks, a game Vancouver led 2-0 after two periods, out of their minds. The task ahead was to win Thursday’s Game 5 at 9 p.m. ET and avoid elimination from the NHL’s Western Conference semifinal.
“You don’t have any choice,” said captain Markus Naslund as the players prepared to board an afternoon flight. “The season will be over if we feel bad for ourselves or sorry for ourselves.”
Coach Alain Vigneault snorted when asked about the team healing from the psychological scars of blowing a game it should have won and falling behind 3-1 in the best-of-seven series.
“I don’t think it should be that hard to get ready for the next game,” said Vigneault, a candidate for the NHL coach-of-the-year award. “If we want to continue playing hockey we have no choice. We have to win.”
The Canucks need to do several things if the players don’t want to be golfing next week. They must be better at blocking shots in front of goaltender Roberto Luongo, stay out of the penalty box and score some goals on the power play.
The biggest thing Vancouver needs is more production from Daniel and Henrik Sedin. The Swedish twins combined for 46 goals and 165 points during the regular season and were each plus-19.
In 11 playoff games the brothers have two goals each and a combined nine points. Daniel is a minus-4 and Henrik minus-6. Daniel has one goal against the Ducks, Henrik none.
Vigneault split up the brothers in the third period Tuesday. He isn’t sure if they will play together or on separate lines Thursday.
“They haven’t been as good as they have been all year,” said Vigneault. “They seem to be skating in quicksand on different nights.
“I know they want to do well. They want to be the go-to guys. Right now their game is not as good as it was during the season.”
Daniel Sedin wasn’t surprised the coach tried to jumpstart the brothers by putting them on different lines.
“I don’t think we did a good enough job so we have to expect that to happen,” he said. “Our job is to score. It was in the regular season and it’s the same in the playoffs.
“Tomorrow is the biggest game of the year. We have to try and go out and play the best game of the year.”
Henrik Sedin said he’ll play on what ever line the coach wants.
“It’s up to him,” said Henrik, who was on the ice for all three Ducks goals Tuesday. “If the thinks that is better for the team, it’s his decision.
“We are going to go out there and work hard anyway.” The Ducks may be in the driver’s seat but they aren’t taking anything for granted. Defenceman Scott Niedermayer said the team still needs to play better.
“To have success long term you need to be consistent,” he said. “We need to find that. Going home, that’s a good place to start.
“We have to be ready to work and play our game. It doesn’t matter what the series is at, what game it is or where we are playing. That’s the type of attitude we try and have. That’s what we will try to do going into the next game.”
This is the seventh time in franchise history the Canucks have fallen behind 3-1 in a series. The team has battled back to win the series three times. They did it in 1992 against the Winnipeg Jets, 1994 against the Calgary Flames and most recently in 2003 against the St. Louis Blues.
“We know it’s possible,” said Naslund. “Probably half the guys on this team we’re part of that (2003).
“We know the feeling when you get that road win, feel the confidence coming, and then get another win and go into Game 7.”
Defenceman Brent Sopel said the Canucks can’t worry about the journey, just the first step.
“We are worrying about tomorrow night and the first period,” he said. “That’s it.
“We can’t look at the big picture. It’s a long haul, a tough mountain. We can get it done.”
Centre Brendan Morrison, who scored his first goal of the playoffs in the overtime loss, said Vancouver has the talent to win the series. It now comes down to heart and effort.
“Honestly, I don’t doubt we can win this series if we go out and play the way we are capable of,” he said. “If we don’t play our best, then we won’t win.
“But if we go out and play the way we are capable of playing, then we have a chance.”