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THE MOJ: Sometimes you just lose one, as Canucks found in Colorado

Team didn’t play badly in 2nd of road back-to-back games, they just didn’t win
Ryan Johansen of the Colorado Avalanche (far right) celebrates his second goal of the game against the Vancouver Canucks in Denver on Tuesday night. Colorado would defeat Vancouver 3-1. Colorado Avalance photo

Sometimes you just have to tip your hat to your opponent.

That’s the best way to describe the Vancouver Canucks 3-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche at Ball Arena in Denver on Tuesday night.

A day after being ventilated 10-7 by the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday, the Canucks found themselves in a precarious situation.

Playing the second game of a back-to-back set is always tough. Playing it at altitude is even tougher.

Throw in the fact you’re playing one of the league’s elite teams in the Avs and the task at hand would be a good test of the Canucks resolve.

With Vancouver getting a goal from J.T. Miller to open the scoring in the first period and Colorado following up with a marker from Port Moody’s Ryan Johansen in the second, the two teams entered the final period tied 1-1.

The game was there for the taking for Vancouver but in the end, the Avalanche found a way to win and the Canucks didn’t.

The difference between winning and losing in this game was a thin one - perhaps even as thin as choosing a wrist shot over a slapshot.

Just over a minute in the third period, Johansen took a pass at the right point and elected to throw the puck at the net. The shot appeared to have nicked Canucks defenseman Ian Cole in front and got by goaltender Thatcher Demko for Johansen’s second goal of the game to give Colorado a 2-1 lead.

“It was a lucky bounce. It was obviously from the work in front of the net in creating that scrum (as) it bounces of his hip and goes in. It’s a funny game sometimes. You go stretches and can’t score then stuff like that happens,” said Johansen, who snapped a 20-game goalless drought with his two tallies.

Canucks defenseman Filip Hronek had a glorious opportunity to tie the game at 2-2 midway through the third period during a crazy scramble in the Avalanche zone but failed to capitalize. With Avalanche goaltender Alexandar Georgiev down and out and not aware where the puck was, Hronek took a pass between the hash marks and let go a slapshot that was blocked by Artturi Lehkonen of the Avs. Had Hronek elected to take a wrister, he might have had that fraction of a second that would have allowed the shot to get through prior to Lehkonen getting in position.

“I thought we played a good game. We probably deserved better but they made the plays in the end. We had a bunch of chances but we just didn’t put them in. It was a well-played game,” Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet said afterwards.

Some will point to the Canucks power play as one of the reasons they failed to win this game. I’m not going to go that far as Vancouver only had two chances and failed to score on both but at some point, this unit has to contribute as the latest stretch of futility has Canuck Nation scratching their heads.

A power play that boasts four All-Stars in Miller, Quinn Hughes, Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser shouldn’t be struggling to the point where it has gone 1-for-24 in the last eight games.

Tocchet believes that the unit needs to be more aggressive if it wants to turn things around.

“We have to start to shoot the puck instead of deferring. We have to be a little bit more decisive. We have to get some pucks to the net. I don’t think we’re getting pucks to the net,” stated Tocchet.

Tocchet also wasn’t pleased with a penalty call against Cole late in the third period. The former Av was called for tripping Colorado’s Ross Colton with 3:33 remaining with replays clearly showing Colton embellishing on the play.

Although the Canucks killed off the penalty, they lost two valuable minutes in doing so before Lehkonen got a shot by Hughes into an empty net to secure the victory.

“It sucks getting that penalty at the end. I thought we were coming and I’m not sure that was a good penalty,” said Tocchet.


* The loss marked the first time this season that Vancouver has lost three consecutive games.

* Boeser’s assist on Miller’s goal gives him 57 points for the season which is a career-high. Demko made 24 saves for the Canucks while Georgiev made 24 stops for the Avs.

* Surrey’s Arshdeep Bains made his NHL debut for the Canucks against the Avs and became only the fourth player of Punjabi descent to play at the NHL level joining Jujhar Khaira, Manny Malhotra and Robin Bawa. Bains’ parents Kuldip and Harvinder made the trip to Denver to see their son’s debut with Kuldip becoming part of the ‘Mentors Trip’ that the organization is hosting. Bains’ journey to the NHL truly is amazing considering he was never drafted at the NHL or WHL level.

* The Canucks wrap up their three-game road junket with a game in Seattle on Thursday before returning to Vancouver for a three-game homestand that starts on Saturday versus Boston. Johansen was playing in his 899th NHL game and is scheduled to play his 900th game in Detroit on Thursday.

* NBA star Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets took in the game with his family.

Veteran B.C. sports personality Bob “the Moj” Marjanovich writes twice weekly for Black Press Media.

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