VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Before the Blues played the Canucks at Rogers Arena, Ken Hitchcock reflected on his team's recent surge. On one hand, the Note had won three games in a row and five of its most recent six.
On the other hand, "Even as good as we've played ... you've only gained four points on ninth place," Hitchcock observed. "So it's going to take a lot of wins to keep up with the bar right now."
The bar management work left something to be desired on Tuesday. The Canucks survived a furious Blues rally and snapped a two-game losing skid with a 3-2 victory.
The matchup appeared favorable for the visiting Blues, with the Canucks playing for the second night in succession, the third time in four nights, the fourth in six nights ... etc. What's more, the Canucks had been sucking wind offensively, scoring two goals or less in seven of their previous eight, and winning only two of those games.
Meanwhile, the Blues have had an infusion. On Thursday, Alexander Steen returned to the lineup. On Saturday, Vladimir Tarasenko came back. This time, it was Andy McDonald's turn, as the jitterbugging winger played for the first time since injuring his knee in practice on Feb. 26. Defensive quarterback Alex Pietrangelo also returned after missing Saturday's game with flu symptoms.
The Blues even seemed to have some massage therapy mojo working for them, as longtime team rubologist Jeff Wright celebrated his 1,000th NHL game. The man known as "Rub" has worked magic on a lot of sore muscles over the years. But he couldn't work the kinks out of an asymmetrical effort from the Blues.
In today's NHL, fatigue and a demanding segments are part and parcel, and advantages are hard to discern. On this night, the decisive factor was the Blues' failure to convert offense, despite lots of chances.
"This is a tough building to play in," Hitchcock said. "We're two teams that are kind of built the same way. Whichever team occupies the other team's zone usually wins the hockey game. ... I think it's just two really competitive teams and at the end of 60 minutes, whoever controls playing in the offensive zone and makes the fewest errors usually ends up winning the hockey game."
Truth be told, the Blues had the best of the zone time, in the first and third periods. But they allowed the Canucks to seize control with a disastrous second period and clearly suffered the more damaging errors.
The Blues dominated from the outset. Midway through the first, Ryan Reaves nearly scored during a scrum in the goal crease. The action produced a power play, during which Alex Pietrangelo had a couple of high-quality chances. But Vancouver goaltender Cory Schneider had the answers.
With just over five minutes remaining, Schneider continued to frustrate the Blues, throwing out a left pad to rob McDonald in close. The Blues took a commanding 15-3 advantage in shots on goal to their dressing room, but a 0-0 game remained up for grabs.
The Canucks grabbed in a stunning second period reversal, during which they out-shot the Blues 14-6 and outscored them 3-0.
The first goal came 2 minutes 30 seconds, without warning. The Canucks broke into the Blues' zone on a mildly-threatening rush. Janni Hanen took a pass from Mason Raymond and from the top of the left circle, blasted a shot over Jake Allen's right shoulder to give Vancouver a 1-0 lead. The goal was Hansen's eighth.
Moments later, the offensively impaired Canucks made it 2-0. In customary style, it was a family-oriented goal. Henrik Sedin worked behind the net and slid a pass through the slot. Daniel Sedin ditched his check and walked into the pass, snapping it past the helpless Allen.
A scorer of 71 goals the past two seasons, on similar plays, Daniel Sedin got his first in nine games, his ninth of the season.
The Blues had been playing conscientiously around Allen during the rookie's recent roll. But their continued coverage issues continued. With 8:45 still remaining in the disastrous period, the Canucks made it 3-0 with a highlight-reel play.
Jordan Schroeder skated across the blue line and somehow was able to spin-around untouched and find Dale Weise with a reverse pass. Weise broke in unmarked and beat Allen with a move to his backhand, his second goal of the season. Game, set, match.
The Blues hinted otherwise early in the third, getting a goal from rookie Jaden Schwartz. Tarasenko ripped a shot at Schneider and the puck caromed in off Schwartz for his third goal with more than 14 minutes to play.
A miraculous rally continued to be an option when Patrick Berglund scored his 14th goal to cut the deficit to 3-2 with 6:22 to play. But the comeback was short-circuited by a penalty on Vladimir Sobotka with 3:06 to play.
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