Vancouver - Dec. 14, 2011 - In a game that should have been easily, and handily won by the Canucks turns into a shoot-out loss, thanks to an early lackluster performance by the visiting Canucks. The Blue Jackets were ripe for the picking, considering their inability to score goals was on par with their inability to stop goals in recent games. This coupled with the fact their starting goalie, Steve Mason hadn’t played in a game in over a month, the Canucks should have been able to laugh their way through this one, but in the end it was Mason and the Blue Jackets who had the last laugh.
To say the Canucks let this opportunity slip away would be an understatement because instead of taking the game to the home team Jackets, they allowed the Jackets to take the game away from the Canucks, at least early on anyway. But by then, Steve Mason had his confidence back and was playing like the shut down goaltender everyone expects him to be, and ended up making some game saving saves when the Canucks were pressing.
What would be the first thing a team would want to do when facing a goaltender that hasn’t seen rubber in over a month? Put the puck on him every chance you got right? Well, the Canucks seemed to have a different strategy tonight as they tried to continue their win streak on the road, and that strategy was, um well to be honest with you it was anything BUT put the puck on Mason to test him. The Canucks managed a paltry five shots on Mason in the first period. Five shots was all the league’s second best scoring team could muster? Are you kidding me?
Then at 10:32 of the first period with the Blue Jackets enjoying a 4-on-3 power play with Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler sitting in the penalty box, Jeff Carter manages to eeke his shot between Luongo’s right pad and the goal post to give the Jackets the 1-0 lead. Was it a good shot? Not at all. Was it stoppable? Yes, very if Luongo was able to stay in the butterfly instead of assuming his usual face down reverse butterfly position! Seriously! Lou has to find his form from last year if he wants to repeat his goal stopping prowess of a season ago. This face down sprawling technique of his is getting frustrating to watch!
With the Canucks down by a goal, which was by no means insurmountable, the Canucks mounted their comeback bid in the second, but just couldn’t beat Mason as he stopped all 14 shots he faced in the second period. Luongo as well was up to the task stopping all 11 of Columbus’ shots to keep his team in the game. But with each shot Mason stopped, he looked as if he was getting stronger and more confident. He was unbeatable until 8:03 of the third when Maxim Lapierre beat him with a quick wrister to tie the game.
For the typical third period “comeback Canucks”, the table was set for another late game charge, but couldn’t quite pull it off partly because of Mason’s play, and partly because the Canucks couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn with their shots! Even the late period comeback specialist sniper Sami Salo had a difficult time finding the target. With the overtime period unable to solve the tie where the Canucks outshot the Jackets by a whopping 3-2 margin, it was on to the shootout. Yes, the dreaded shootout would decide this game, and even though Luongo was 1-1 in shootouts this year, including an impressive 3-3 effort in Montreal last Thursday, you could literally hear the groans from Canuck Nation as the overtime period ended.
In a nutshell, Luongo wasn’t able to stop anything, Nothing, Nil, Nada, Bupkis, as he went 0-3 against Mark Letestu, Rick Nash, and James Wisniewski. Yes, even Wisniewski made him look bad! Alexandre Burrows was the only Canucks shooter to beat Mason, but it wasn’t enough.
On the bright side, at least the Canucks get to skulk out of town with a point, but that seems like little consolation when this game was very winnable for the Canucks when anything less than a full complete beat-down of the Blue Jackets would have been acceptable. It’s now on to Carolina to face the Hurricanes, another team that should be easy pickins for the Canucks. Let’s hope the Nucks find their game and killer instinct in the baggage carousel when they land in Raleigh, N.C.!