The Canucks lost 5-1 to the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night at Rogers Arena, a game they were never really in

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As much pluck as the Vancouver Canucks showed in their three-game winning streak, keeping on the winning side of the ledge without Elias Pettersson in the lineup was always going to be a hard thing to do.

The Canucks lost 5-1 to the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night at Rogers Arena, a game they were never really in.

The visitors harried the Canucks all over the ice, forcing turnovers and bad passes time and again, keeping their hosts from moving the puck up the ice.

To no surprise, Canucks head coach Travis Green was visibly frustrated with his team and his words matched.

“Very poor,” he said about his team’s effort. “We just didn’t have a lot of players play very well.

“You’re going to have stinkers, it’s by no means an excuse, we had too many players not play well. We’re not a team that can bring a C, D (grade) game,” he added.

Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko has been a star in recent weeks for his team, but even the best goalies can only do so much.

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“Not too sure. Obviously I’d like them all back,” Thatcher Demko replied when asked about whether any goals were bugging him especially.

The Habs peppered Demko’s net with 45 shots. The Canucks managed just 24 in the end, the two totals telling the truth about the tilt of the ice.

The ice resurfacers were needed more at one end of the ice than the other.

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Montreal got goals from Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Corey Perry, Shea Weber, Jeff Petry and Phillip Danault, while the Canucks’ goal was scored by Brock Boeser on a second-period power play.

Here’s what we learned …


Montreal Canadiens right wing Brendan Gallagher (11) looks for the puck with Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko (35) during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, March 10, 2021.
Montreal Canadiens right wing Brendan Gallagher (11) looks for the puck with Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko (35) during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, March 10, 2021. Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayw /THE CANADIAN PRESS

Tepid start

If Kotkaniemi hadn’t taken a very dumb boarding penalty 6:40 into the game, you wonder when the Canucks really would have had their first offensive pressure of the game.

Because to that point, you could count the times they’d held the puck in the Montreal end in one hand.

The Habs just didn’t give the Canucks any room to break out and made life very difficult through the neutral zone when they did.

That was true early and then for the rest of the game too.

“I thought the first period we looked extremely slow,” Green said. “I didn’t think we passed the puck well all night.”

The Canucks managed to direct just six even-strength shot-attempts towards Carey Price’s goal in the first period, with 34 on the game as a whole. Montreal, with 64, nearly doubled that total.

“Unacceptable,” Boeser said of his teams’ effort on the night. “It’s pretty simple, we got outworked tonight.”


Vancouver Canucks forward J.T. Miller (9) fights with Montreal Canadiens defenceman Ben Chiarot (8) in the first period at Rogers Arena.
Vancouver Canucks forward J.T. Miller (9) fights with Montreal Canadiens defenceman Ben Chiarot (8) in the first period at Rogers Arena. Photo by Bob Frid /USA TODAY Sports

Maybe not the time for it

Fighting is one of hockey’s worst elements, but as long as it’s allowed under the rules, players will do it.

You can understand J.T. Miller’s desire to fire up his team, but even if you are a fan of fisticuffs, you can’t ignore the reality he’s his team’s No. 1 centre and with the Canucks struggling to make anything happen on offence, him sitting in the box for five-plus minutes wasn’t going to help the cause.

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Green said he had no issue with Miller’s decision to drop the gloves.

“It’s trying to get a spark for his team, guys do that, fighting is allowed in the NHL and when your team is playing the way we were, sometimes a guy will try to spark a team by starting a fight,” he said.

It was salt in the wound that Kotkaniemi’s goal came on the first shift after Miller’s tussle with Ben Chiarot.

The Canadiens said that Miller challenged Chiarot and while Miller might have been trying to spark his own team, they claimed that the fight led to their own success. (Something that players love to believe, but data has shown time and again there’s no connection between a fight and teams increasing their shot totals or scoring more often or anything like that. A fight is just a fight and momentum is a myth. You’re either playing well or you’re playing badly.)

“It was nothing, he just came off the bench and asked Ben to fight and Ben stood up for himself and our team and, obviously the boys fed off of that and ended up scoring shortly after that so it was a great job by him,” Weber claimed.

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Chiarot did not return to the game after the fight and looked frustrated after leaving the ice, pulling his helmet off and slamming it to the ground as he walked down the tunnel to the Montreal dressing room.

Post-game, Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme said that the team already knew that the veteran defenceman would not play Thursday in Calgary.


Vancouver Canucks forward Adam Gaudette (96) passes the puck while pressured by Montreal Canadiens forward Joel Armia (40) in the first period at Rogers Arena.
Vancouver Canucks forward Adam Gaudette (96) passes the puck while pressured by Montreal Canadiens forward Joel Armia (40) in the first period at Rogers Arena. Photo by Bob Frid /USA TODAY Sports

The stretch pass

There have been times under head coach Travis Green that the Canucks have been able to make the stretch pass a very effective weapon.

The Habs gave their own demonstration of how you can blow an opponent’s forecheck out of the water by finding a pair of forwards streaking down the wings with an aggressive pass.

On the second Habs goal, scored by Perry, Jake Evans found Paul Byron flying down the left wing. Byron got the puck over to Perry, who deked back against the grain to slip the puck past Demko.


Former Vancouver Canuck Alex Burrows behind the Montreal Canadiens bench vs Vancouver in NHL hockey at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, BC, March 10, 2021.
Former Vancouver Canuck Alex Burrows behind the Montreal Canadiens bench vs Vancouver in NHL hockey at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, BC, March 10, 2021. Photo by Arlen Redekop /PNG

Give that man the puck

Much has been made of Alex Burrows’ work with the Montreal power play since he was elevated to the big club’s bench last month.

Sure, there may have been tactical changes made to his two five-man sets — he told the media Tuesday he doesn’t think of his units as “first” or “second” groups — but one thing remains an easy item for him: Shea Weber’s cannon from the point.

The Habs’ captain scored his team’s third goal of the game, a late-second-period marker, with a patented slap shot from out high — one we’ve seen him score with countless times over the past 1.5 decades.

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As long as he keeps hammering the puck like this, he’ll keep finding a spot to fill in the NHL.


Montreal Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher (11) and forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi (15) celebrate Kotkaniemi’s goal scored on Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko (35) in the first period at Rogers Arena.
Montreal Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher (11) and forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi (15) celebrate Kotkaniemi’s goal scored on Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko (35) in the first period at Rogers Arena. Photo by Bob Frid /USA TODAY Sports

Twisting the knife

A 3-1 lead isn’t an overwhelming one, but you really need to change things up if you’re going to reel in the leaders in the third period.

As much as the Canucks might have wanted to change the game’s flow, they had no answers in the final frame: Montreal kept their foot on the gas, controlled play for the most part, and picked up goals from Petry — who jumped in the rush — and Danault.

Danault’s was his first of the season. A crafty two-way centre, it’s been a frustrating season for the 28 year old.

“I throw a bunch of monkey off my back,” he said about his celebration.

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NEXT GAME

Saturday

Edmonton Oilers at Vancouver Canucks

7 p.m., Rogers Arena. TV: CBC, SNP. Radio: Sportsnet 650 AM


Roster move

Before the game, the Canucks put Pettersson on the injured reserve list, a move that was mostly a formality as the Swede hasn’t played since Mar. 2 in Winnipeg.

Green said Tuesday his No. 1 centre would be out at least another week.

Putting Pettersson on IR allowed the Canucks to recall Olli Juolevi from the taxi squad. Juolevi took the pre-game skate but was scratched.

pjohnston@postmedia.com

twitter.com/risingaction

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