MONTREAL - Teams often say they need to take the positives out of a loss, but rarely do they have as much material to build on as the Vancouver Canucks do after Tuesday night's 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens.
The Canucks outshot the Canadiens 47-28 and if time of possession were a stat kept by the NHL, it would have tipped heavily in Vancouver's favour. But wave after wave of pressure ended with Canadiens goalie Jaroslav Halak making one of his 45 saves.
"We were getting some pretty good chances and it was back and forth there for a while," said Canucks forward Ryan Kesler, who scored his 14th of the season late in the third to cut a two-goal deficit in half. "All in all I thought we outplayed that team and their goalie stole the game."
The Canucks saw a season-high seven-game win streak come to an end, and head coach Alain Vigneault was in full agreement with Kesler on the No. 1 reason why that happened.
"The difference was that we weren't able to bury some of the grade-A chances that we had at 5-on-5," Vigneault said. "The best player on the ice tonight without a doubt was their goaltender. He kept the puck out and they won the game."
It was only Vancouver's fifth regulation loss in 25 games, dropping to 18-5-2 over that span, but it was also the second straight game the team has fallen behind early and been forced to mount a comeback.
Saturday night in Toronto, the Canucks fell behind 3-0 after one period to the Maple Leafs only to storm back with five straight goals for a 5-3 win.
This time, Montreal was ahead 2-1 after 20 minutes and went ahead 3-1 midway through the third period.
That's when Tomas Plekanec scored what turned out to be the winner when he fought off Christian Ehrhoff in front of Roberto Luongo and took several whacks at the puck only to have the last one bounce off Luongo, up into the air over him, and eventually trickle into the net.
"Unfortunately on that last one, I stopped the first four," Luongo said. "I got a piece of the fifth one, but not enough."
The Canucks were called for two diving penalties in the game, including one on Kesler at 8:37 of the third to nullify a power play in a one-goal game. Kesler said he took a whack from Yannick Weber's stick between the legs, which led to an understandably animated reaction.
"Obviously (the referee) didn't see me get clipped there, so you can't blame him," Kesler said. "The game happens fast. But that's why I was so mad about the call. It didn't feel good, and I went down."