VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Canucks hit the National Hockey League pole quarter on Thursday, but it looks more like the pole quarter hit them.
The Canucks went back after a two-goal deficit and only yielded two more goals on turnovers when the Dallas Stars beat Vancouver 4-2 at the Rogers Arena.
Stars, 9-1-1 in 11 games since the start of 1-7-1, are as hot now as Canucks used to be. The heat of Vancouver's wheezing October had cooled. In 10-7-3 to 20 games, Canucks still lead Stars by one point in the Western Conference standings, but it seems that teams are accelerating in opposite directions.
Canucks are 1-4-1 in their last six games and failed to grow on Thursday after Tuesday's 5-3 win against Nashville Predators. This was the only game of the six in which Vancouver managed to score more than twice.
In addition to the offense, which was unsustainable from October levels, there are some other disconcerting trends.
Goalkeeper Jacob Markstrom, who has dealt with the emotional agony of his father's terminal illness and subsequent death from cancer over the weekend, scored four goals in 29 kicks on Thursday and recorded a savings percentage of 0.895 in the last six matches. . And the wounds in the lower half of the formation appear to be reaching critical mass.
Coach Travis Green admitted on Thursday that the absence of third and fourth-tier centers Brandon Sutter and Jay Beagle, both experienced top players on penalties and defensive situations, was felt against the "heavier" stars.
Still, Canucks was within Dallas's goal, with three minutes left and still playing hard and staying competitive. And those 23 points from 20 games are projected for a 94-point season, which would put them in the frenzy of the April playoff race.
"You're catching me one night when we lost a hockey game," Green said when asked after the game a quick first quarter review of Canucks. "If you catch me after the game in Nashville, I'd probably be a little more optimistic, I think. I think our team played well.
"If you play more than 20 games, man, there weren't many games where we didn't play a good hockey game. However, let's learn a few things. Tonight was one of those games. A heavier team came in and played a good game." Our team is learning. Overall, after 20 games, I think I'm very happy with our team's performance. "
Defender Troy Stecher summed it up: “We work hard. I think we proved that in every game we will compete and battle. We are trying to make it difficult for other teams to play against (us). We pride ourselves on our speed and playing straight. This is the fourth year for me now (on NHL) and I kind of feel that the preseason is one level, until Christmas is different, and then it keeps increasing.
"We definitely need to keep improving. We need to be better as a group."
They needed to be better on Thursday to earn and manage the puck.
Physical stars defend fiercely and feed on mistakes to score goals. Green said the Canucks didn't win enough battles and didn't take care of the puck.
Alex Radulov's decisive 2: 1 goal with 2:36 left came after Canuck defender Alex Edler turned the puck in the neutral zone and followed his bad pass and got caught.
Tyler Seguin's marking broke the 2-2 draw at 18:29 of the second period when Canuck Bo Horvat let Dallas defender Miro Heiskanen step in front of him in a counterattack after Jordie Benn's shot was blocked in. Blue Stars.
"When you turn the puck you give up the odds of racing," Green said. "That's what happens in the league and they are good at it.
“I thought we turned the record a few times it cost us. And I thought they won a few more disk battles than we did. They are a heavy team. They know how to defend themselves. You have to skate, play straight and you can't turn the puck against them or they'll rush the other way.
"I don't think we had a lot of guys who were great tonight."
Seguin's goal was a disappointing end to a strong midfield for Canucks, which began its return at 5:21 on Jake Virtanen's goal and equalized 2-2 at 11:30, when Stecher's marker went through a thick scrub. . from Stars players and goalkeeper Anton Khudobin.
Riding an 8-1-1 wave in the standings, Dallas took the lead 1-0, 3:45 after the opening clash when Justin Dowling passed Canuck defender Tyler Myers, received a Seguin pass and cheated Markstrom with a drag stroke.
The goalkeeper allowed Blake Comeau to take turns at 4:03 of the second period, after the Dallas striker embarrassed Stecher with an outward inward motion at speed.
"Whenever you go so badly, you just want to hide," said Stecher. “Plus, I felt bad for the team. You put them in a difficult situation when you come down like this. To get it back, it was good.
Stecher was referring to his draw goal – the last of the night for the struggling Canucks.
"It looked like we had a pretty solid game," said Virtanen. “We had pressure on them and they arrived late. We could have made some smarter parts.
• Green said after the morning skate that Sutter, who left the game in Nashville with a groin injury, will miss at least a week and will be reevaluated. Beagle lost his second consecutive match with an undisclosed injury. Strikers Tyler Motte (foot) and Micheal Ferland (concussion) are also out.