VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Canucks made mistakes on back-to-back shifts against a team that knows a thing or two about scoring in quick succession.
It cost them dearly on Saturday night.
Andrew Shaw and Marcus Kruger scored nine seconds apart early in the third period and Corey Crawford made 36 saves as the Chicago Blackhawks defeated Vancouver 2-1 to send the Canucks to their sixth loss in seven games.
Saturday’s barrage from the Blackhawks was eerily reminiscent of their Stanley Cup-clinching two goals in 17 seconds late in Game 6 of June’s final against the Boston Bruins.
“It can turn around pretty quick if we get some chances, especially the opportunities we got,” said Crawford, who outduelled fellow Canadian Olympic hopeful Roberto Luongo. “They were A-plus chances and usually we bury those and we did tonight.”
Shaw redirected a pass from Patrick Kane in front of Luongo to tie the score 1-1 at 4:40 of the final period, moments after Chicago’s Patrick Sharp ripped a shot on a power play that went off the crossbar and both posts but stayed out.
The Canucks then somehow gave up a 2-on-1 seconds after the ensuing faceoff, with Kruger firing a shot that went right through Luongo to give Chicago (16-4-4) its second straight victory.
“We got a greasy goal, a lucky one there to get us going, and then a big response the following shift. It was a big comeback,” said Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, whose team has scored a league-high 87 goals this season. “We haven’t had many games like this. Tight, tight games going into the third period so it’s nice to find a way.”
One night after his team exploded for a 6-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets to snap a five-game losing streak that included just six Vancouver goals, Canucks head coach John Tortorella lamented the two lapses in concentration.
“I think we beat ourselves there, and teams like Chicago will capitalize on that,” he said. “We kill a penalty, we get our guy on the ice and we throw the puck away—ends up in our net. A faceoff (play) we run and how we forecheck off a faceoff every time, we decide to go off the map with it and we give up an odd-man rush—it’s in our net.
“That’s a big part of the game.”
Ryan Kesler scored on a 5-on-3 man advantage in the first period for Vancouver (12-9-4), which has been held to one goal in 10 of its 25 games so far this season.
The Canucks are 0-9-3 when scoring two goals or less and 12-0-1 when scoring three times or more.
Despite Vancouver’s struggles to find offence, Luongo said his team can’t forget about its own end.
“We have to learn how to win some games 1-0, 2-1,” said Luongo, who played on consecutive nights for the first time since November 2011 and finished with 27 saves. “That’s the way the league is right now. We can’t just focus on the offence. If you look around the league, it’s all low-scoring games. We have to find a way to win those.”
After Chicago took the lead, Vancouver’s Dale Weise had a great chance to tie things up but saw Crawford smother his backhand chance with under eight minutes to go.
The Canucks continued to press late, with Alexandre Burrows fanning on a shot in front off a pass with Luongo on the bench for the extra attacker before Daniel Sedin also failed to connect from the slot.
“We have to put pucks away. It can’t just be one game and then you’re off again,” said Canucks captain Henrik Sedin. “It’s about getting that feeling when you’re going to score goals. Right now it’s not happening.”
Trailing 1-0 after the first period despite carrying the majority of the play, Chicago was thwarted by both Luongo and a lack of accuracy in front of goal in the second.
Johnny Oduya ripped a shot wide from the slot early in the period before Luongo stopped a Shaw deflection and made a pad save on Brandon Saad.
Vancouver’s No. 1-ranked penalty killing then fought off Chicago’s first power-play opportunity of the night, with the Blackhawks’ best chance coming when Jonathan Toews fired a shot wide from the slot.
Burrows, who has not scored in any of his 14 games this season, then had a chance on a wraparound but couldn’t find the range to beat Crawford.
“The most frustrating part is that you feel you’re letting your teammates down,” Burrows said of his slump. “They’re counting on you to score some goals and you’re not getting the job done.”
Kesler opened the scoring late in the first period when Vancouver’s 29th-ranked power play connected on a two-man advantage against Chicago’s equally feeble 29th-ranked penalty killing unit. Jason Garrison’s one-timer from the point rebounded right out to Kesler, who settled himself before burying his 10th of the season and first in eight games.
“I feel like we owned that first period and they come out on top, but we didn’t get down on ourselves,” said Shaw. “We kept working and stuck to it all game and it just took nine seconds.”
Notes: Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa missed the game for “family reasons.” The team did not provide a timeline for his return. … Canucks forward Zach Kassian was benched was benched for the third period and saw just 4:10 of ice time on the night. … The Canucks conclude their season-long six-game homestand on Monday against the Los Angeles Kings. Vancouver opens a four-game road trip on Thursday against the Ottawa Senators. … The Blackhawks continue a season-high tying seven-game road trip on Monday against the Edmonton Oilers.
Follow Joshua Clipperton on Twitter at @josh_clipperton