Better late than ever, Canucks upset L.A. Kings
Vancouver finally wins three in a row — against top-rate California teams
Now that the least is expected of them — or wanted from them, if you ask the draftists — the Vancouver Canucks have built their longest winning streak of the season. It began five days ago.
It took the Canucks six months and 79 National Hockey League games to win three straight. They finally completed that short sprint without falling by beating the Los Angeles Kings 3-2 Monday at Rogers Arena.
If the Canucks move to California, they might win the Stanley Cup. Their three-game win streak was constructed against the Kings, San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks — all three headed to the playoffs and a couple of them considered legitimate Stanley Cup threats. Pfff, whatever.
The Canucks are streaking their way toward the NHL draft lottery at the end of the month, headed to their worst finish since the 1990s.
But at least they can count to three.
“Those are three big teams, heavy teams, that are probably going to contend for the Stanley Cup,” Canuck winger Derek Dorsett said of the California sweep. “It sucks that it is a little late. Maybe we’ve learned from some of the things that have happened throughout the season that kind of put us in the situation we’re in. We’ve come out with good efforts the last few nights and hopefully we can keep doing that the rest of the way.”
But the draft lottery? The diminishing odds to win the Auston Matthews jackpot?
“You always want to win,” Dorsett continued. “I don’t think there’s a guy who shows up here and doesn’t want to win every night. And if there is, they’re in the wrong business. You never want losing to be your culture. Whenever you can win games, you’ve got to find a way.”
The Canucks found a way to lose most of the season. Twelve times the Canucks have blown games they led into the final period — a staggering waste of points.
Monday, Canuck goalie Ryan Miller preserved the win with 20 third-period saves. The team in front of him played with intensity and physicality against a powerful, motivated opponent. It was another great night of learning for young Canucks like Jared McCann, Jake Virtanen, Brendan Gaunce, Nikita Tryamkin and Ben Hutton.
“Hopefully next year, come this time, they’re in games that matter,” veteran Jannik Hansen said. “You have to play to win. And you’re not just playing to win. You’re playing for jobs, opportunities, families, lives. You can’t do that to your teammates and you just check out and say, ‘OK, I’ll see you in October next year.’ You have to approach games like it matters.”
The Canucks haven’t played a game that mattered in the standings for at least a month.
They lost nine straight before their five-day winning spree.
“When we got in that slump, we were kind of down on ourselves,” McCann, the 19-year-old rookie, said after scoring the winner. “But as of lately, we’ve been playing well. We’re not going to mail the season in yet. We’re looking to play these last games really hard and carry it over to next season.”
Vancouver hadn’t won three in a row since the end of last season, 51 weeks ago. They were 0-7-1 after consecutive wins this season. Six of those regulation losses were at Rogers Arena, and the Canucks were outscored 30-10 in them. The Kings hammered them 5-0 in Vancouver on Dec. 28 to end one of Vancouver’s twogame tears. So despite impressive road victories Thursday in San Jose and Friday in Anaheim, the Canucks were nobody’s pick to win Monday at home, where they had just 13 victories in 39 games.
But just as they did in the third period in Anaheim, the Canucks rallied with two quick goals to erase a 2-1 deficit against the Kings.
Hansen, who fought off vertigo at actually being deployed on the power play, tied it 2-2 at 15:22 of the middle period during a two-man advantage. He onetimed a back-door feed from Henrik Sedin past Los Angeles goalie Jonathan Quick soon after Canuck headhunter Brayden McNabb followed Kings teammate Vince Lecavalier to the penalty box.
And 4:05 later, after Kings captain Dustin Brown fumbled the puck from a faceoff win in the Vancouver end, McCann burst away on a breakaway and badly fooled Quick with a forehand deke for the Canuck’s first goal in 10 games.
It was a goal in the final minute of the first period — Dorsett’s shot ricocheted in off teammate Emerson Etem with 13 seconds left — that lifted the Canucks into a 1-1 tie despite being largely outplayed.
Tyler Toffoli, unchecked by Markus Granlund, scored six minutes into the game when Miller surrendered a big rebound from Jeff Carter’s shot from a sharp angle.
What made the second-period surge especially impressive is that it came as a response to Kyle Clifford putting the Kings up 2-1 at 9:15. After a turnover by Daniel Sedin, the Kings’ fourth line scored against the Canucks’ top unit when Andy Andreoff made a terrific pass behind Tryamkin to hit Clifford on a 2-on-1.
Most of this season, that goal would have driven the Canucks into submission. Monday, it drove them forward.