Considering what they’ve been through and how the ghosts of COVID-19 and the revised National Hockey League schedule have overwhelmed them, you’re probably asking too much of the Vancouver Canucks to deliver many more positive results this season.
The best his fans can hope for some nights will be a good effort and a good story, and the Canucks at least provided both on Thursday when they lost 4-1 to the Toronto Maple Leafs in winger Kole Lind’s NHL debut.
But that bottom line further overshadowed a team whose momentum generated last week by a surprising and resilient comeback from its coronavirus crisis has now been completely extinguished, which is what its soon-fading playoff hopes will be as well, if the Canucks can’t start winning games again.
They competed as best they could against the mighty Maple Leafs, but were still beaten by Canada’s best team, which rested two of its best defenses but still led 3-0 after 23 minutes before managing the clock and effort.
The Canucks are 0-3 on a road trip that ends Saturday with another game against the Leafs, and they remain 10 points behind the Montreal Canadiens with four games in hand in the “race” for the final playoff spot. .
“I thought we were a lot better tonight than last night, I’ll tell you,” Canucks coach Travis Green said. “Man, 24-16 were the shots, that was a tight and competitive game. We probably played better tonight against this team than the first home game after the COVID break (when the Canucks beat the Leafs 3-2 in overtime).
“We just take advantage of the positives from tonight and learn from the mistakes we made. We had a partner that we would like to get back. I thought we had a couple of young players who looked a bit tired tonight. “
Most of his team looked tired in Wednesday’s sloppy 6-3 loss to the Ottawa Senators.
But the road to defeat was similar: Trailing 1-0 after a lackluster opening period, the Canucks needed a raise in the second period, but instead conceded two goals in two minutes with sloppy coverage, and finished.
Bo Horvat, replacing defender Quinn Hughes on the spot, made a poor reading and was disallowed in a two-on-one that Auston Matthews finished off with a pass from Mitch Marner to make it 2-0 at 51 seconds into the intermission.
Misreading and the pinching of defender Travis Hamonic on the Toronto Blue Line soon led to another outnumbered run that made it 3-0 at 2:57 when Vancouver goalkeeper Braden Holtby was unable to avoid Pierre Engvall’s shot. from an acute angle.
William Nylander scored the only goal of the opening period, at 3:29 p.m., after Hughes’s cross shot was blocked within the Vancouver blue line and the second-year defender flipped the puck into the air in a loss of ball.
Hughes finished with negative four and in two games over 26 hours he managed to go to negative seven while the Canucks were being outscored 10-4.
“I think we held out most of the time, but in the first half of the game, you need a stop or something to change the momentum and we didn’t make it tonight,” Holtby said. “I just didn’t get on the right side.
“We are trying to make our way. It has not been easy. You are experiencing things that you have not felt before, so it is different. But we have a pretty proud group that is going to do our best whenever we can. That is all we are focused on. It is what it is now and we are just trying to win games. “
JT Miller’s power play shot at Toronto goalkeeper David Rittich late in the second period was not enough for Vancouver to take the win.
The Canucks only managed five shots in the third period, but the encouraging aspect was that Lind was promoted alongside Horvat and Tanner Pearson for the final frame and finished his first NHL game with 17:12 on ice time, two shots on the net and various smart defensive plays.
The 22-year-old second-round pick was initially brought to Vancouver from the minor league Utica Comets in March to have a facial fracture examined, but was able to stay with the Canucks after their COVID crisis in April. His last American Hockey League game was on March 3.
“There really are no words to (describe) a game like that,” Lind told reporters at Zoom. “My dream came true, obviously, playing that game.
“It is difficult to put into words, all that my parents and my family have sacrificed. I took a deep breath before going out and crossing my fingers to keep from falling. “
After getting just five protected at-bats in the first period, Lind spent most of the third period lined up against Joe Thornton and the Matthews line.
“I think I lined up with him a few times there in the third period,” Lind said. “Yes, it is crazy to think of all the achievements that he has had. You try not to let your jaw drop when you’re out there against guys like him, Matthews and Marner. “
Another game was won on Saturday. That was a positive thing, at least.