Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Poor Start vs Devils Leads to 5th Straight Home Loss

A poor effort in goal, a brutal start, and careless turnovers were all determining factors in the Canucks 5-3 loss at GM Place to the New Jersey Devils Tuesday evening. It was Vancouver's fifth game in a row on home ice where they saw the vistors skate away with two points.

This game could not have started worse for netminder Jason LaBarbera. After turning the puck over behind his own net, LaBarbera was caught out of position and that allowed Brian Rolston an easy opportunity to capitalize with his 8th of the year. David Clarkson and John Madden get the helpers on the first goal of the night just 65 seconds into the action.

It wasn't long after that the Devils built their lead. While on a two-on-one rush, Travis Zajac had his shot denied by the goalie. The rebound would be snapped home by Zach Parise for his team-leading 25th of the campaign. Team captain Jamie Langenbrunner picked up the other assist at 3:29 and that signalled the end of the night for LaBarbera. He wound up being replaced by Curtis Sanford after giving up two goals on six shots.

The Devils made it a 3-0 contest after another turnover behind the Canucks net. This time Sanford lost posession of the puck to Dainius Zubrus who wasted no time dishing in front to a wide open Brian Gionta. Patrik Elias notched his team-leading 30th assist on Gionta's 11th of the year at 11:07. Thankfully for the Canucks and their fans, that would be the last goal of the period, one that saw New Jersey out-shoot the opposition 12-4.

The shut-out bid of Devils goalie Scott Clemmensen would eventually be broken past the midway point of the middle frame. Ryan Kesler's shot from long range would be denied, but the rebound would be pounced on by Alex Burrows. Willie Mitchell also helped out in seeing Burrows score his 10th of the season at 11:01.

Mitchell nearly got the Canucks to within a goal in the early part of the third period. However his long shot from the left point rattled off the far post. Shortly afterwards, the Devils made their way to the other end of the rink and restored their three-goal lead. A nice give-and-go would be finished off by Zajac. Langenbrunner and Parise each collect the assists on the 12th of the campaign for Zajac at 4:19.

The Canucks team could have easily folded the tent for the rest of the period but they didn't and in fact were able to make things interesting in the final eight minutes. Pavol Demitra, who's been stuck in a tough scoring slump to start the new year, deposited a rebound given up by Clemmensen. Mats Sundin and Shane O'Brien chipped in on the score sheet as Demitra tallied his 13th of the year exactly eight minutes after the Devils 4th goal.

Then exactly five minutes after Demitra scored, Steve Bernier got the home team to within one. Kesler forced a turnover low in the Devils zone and saw the puck come to Bernier in the left face off circle. He quickly spun around and beat the netminder with a shot through the pads. It was Bernier's 10th of the year and it got the sell-out crowd of 18,630 primed for a wild finish.

Sanford was able to get to the bench for the extra attacker and the Canucks did create some pressure in the New Jersey end. However Zubrus was able to seal the victory by finding the empty net. Elias picked up the lone assist on the 11th for Zubrus at 19:21.

Final shots on net did favour the Canucks 29-28. Power plays were not a factor on this night as Vancouver went 0-for-3 while the Devils went 0-for-1.

A couple of overall important records have continued to slip for the Canucks lately. Their overall home ice record now stands at 11-9-2. Compare that to their road record which stands at 11-9-3. As well, the club is now 5-12-1 when giving up the first goal of a game.

In the last three Canucks losses at home, the team has been very guilty of turning over the puck. By the official stats that are kept in the building, the Canucks have forced their opponents to turn the puck over just ten times. What's much more alarming though is the fact that in that same period, Vancouver has given the puck away a whopping 38 times.

The club will have a practice day at GM Place Wednesday to prepare for their next game on home ice on Thursday. It's expected goalie Roberto Luongo will return to the line-up that night as the Canucks will host the Phoenix Coyotes. And with just two points separating the two clubs in the Western Conference standings, you can bet it will be a very intense match-up. Game time will be 7:00pm PST.

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