Sports Hockey

Canucks struggle to find closure

By Hosea Cheung, 24 hours Vancouver

Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby scores during the shootout against Vancouver Canucks goaltender Eddie Lack to win 5-4 at Rogers Arena Tuesday night. 

Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby scores during the shootout against Vancouver Canucks goaltender Eddie Lack to win 5-4 at Rogers Arena Tuesday night. (REUTERS)

The Vancouver Canucks are indeed fragile. Even head coach John Tortorella admitted it following Tuesday's stunning loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in a shootout.

For the fifth game this season, the Canucks have given up a late goal — or in the Pens' case, two late goals — with the other team's goalie pulled, forcing overtime. Vancouver's ability to hang onto leads has come into question many times this season, and they aren't doing much to squash doubts that they can, in fact, close out games on a consistent basis.

"We can't hold onto leads and that hurts," captain Henrik Sedin said. "We should have five or six more points and be up there with the top teams in the West."

Several players also claimed that Tuesday's game is something the team can learn from. But when it comes down to it, haven't they already had many opportunities to "learn" about not blowing leads this year? In their last five games alone, the Canucks were ahead at one point in all of them only to come away with the loss. Three of those matches — Philadelphia, Anaheim, and Pittsburgh — saw the opposition score with less than two minutes remaining in regulation to tie it up.

"The state of our team right now we just got to get the positives and build off of it," Tortorella said. "Obviously we don't close the game out, but we just got to keep working at it here and be a better club in those situations."

For some, this peculiarly zen Tortorella may come as a surprise. But at least the coach is focusing on the positives, and isn't about to lose his marbles yet over some heart-wrenching defeats.

"There's no sense of whining about it, there's no sense of looking for excuses, we just have to try and get better as a team," he said post-game. "I'm ecstatic we got a point.

"All teams get into this state, it's how quickly you can get out of it."

The Canucks will look to do that Friday when they host another difficult opponent in the St. Louis Blues, who have won six straight and sit third in the Western Conference. Vancouver will also try to avoid their longest losing streak of the season, currently at five games.

But first, they may have to figure out how to get out of this so-called fragile state.

"I'm not too worried," defenceman Kevin Bieksa said. "We're almost better when we're playing from behind I think. We're attacking, we're not sitting back. We should have closed that one out."

Who knows? Maybe Bieksa has a point. And the Canucks' new strategy should simply be to come from behind and win games, instead of, you know, being the ones giving up the lead.

Roster move

The Canucks sent forward Benn Ferreiro back to their AHL affiliate, the Utica Comets, on Wednesday. That could mean either Dale Weise or David Booth will get to leave the doghouse. Both were healthy scratches Tuesday and Tortorella said they were "not doing the things they need to do.

"I'm not sure what happens the next game … they need to contribute, that's all I'm asking," the head coach said. "Just to contribute in some way and I don't think they have. Is it a message? You're telling me you're not going to contribute so why use you?"



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