Good hasn’t been good enough for the Vancouver Canucks, and when they travel to Calgary to face the Flames on Wednesday for a fourth consecutive meeting between the clubs, they somehow must find a way to hit another gear.
As close as the Canucks have been lately to winning more consistently, they’re still a team that boasts just one victory in its last eight games. They dropped a 4-3 overtime clash with the Flames, a game in which they blew a 2-0 first-period lead, fell behind on an unlucky goal, scored a late game-tying tally but still tasted defeat.
“Sometimes, it seems like when it rains, it pours,” said forward Tanner Pearson. “We just have to keep working to get out of this and keep looking at the bright side. Tough bounces happen. That’s hockey. It’s what you do after to get out of it.”
Calgary won two of the first three clashes in this four-game set. As well, the Flames have claimed four of five encounters this season, one of the reasons the Canucks sit ahead of only the cellar-dwelling Ottawa Senators in the North Division standings.
Remaining confident is as much of the battle as anything else for the Canucks.
“We’re just a little frustrated and we’ve got to get back to how we know we can play,” captain Bo Horvat said. “It’s simplifying it a bit, and it’s not like we’re not getting chances. It’s a matter of burying them when they’re there and we’re a little shaky right now. We have to sharpen up.”
At least Brock Boeser’s late equalizer to send the game into overtime — a short-handed tally while the Canucks’ net was empty — is the kind of goal that can boost a team, even after a loss.
“It shows that we have no quit to pull the goalie and get one,” Boeser said. “But we obviously made some mistakes. We don’t make those, and we win the game. We have some small details we have to fix.”
The Flames have won their last four of five overall, but they aren’t exactly a well-oiled machine. Slow starts — last game they trailed 2-0 in the first period in huge part thanks to taking four penalties in the opening frame — have been a massive issue. Calgary has surrendered the first goal in nine of 15 games. Sure, the Flames are 4-5-0 in those clashes, but it’s a tall order to expect comeback wins. Amazing as it sounds, they were much better in the opening frame than in Saturday’s 3-1 loss to the Canucks.
“We’re very capable of playing a solid, 60-minute game,” said forward Johnny Gaudreau, whose eighth career regular-season overtime winning goal was the difference. “Obviously, on Saturday, that wasn’t the team we know we are. … I thought we played a really good, strong second and third period. Obviously, they tied it up late there and we want to get better at that … but we found a way to win in overtime and come out of here with four out of six points.”
The trick for the Flames is to actually build on their successes and climb the standings.
“We were much, much better,” coach Geoff Ward said of his team’s win on Monday. “Definitely a step in the right direction for us.”
With the Flames off on Tuesday, there was no word whether center Mikael Backlund would return to the lineup for Wednesday’s game. He missed the last clash due to a lower-body injury and is listed as day-to-day.
–Field Level Media