VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP)—It’s no secret what the Vancouver Canucks must do to get back into their series with the Anaheim Ducks—fix a power play that has been anything but.
The Canucks lost 3-2 Sunday in Game 3 after going 1-for-8 on the power play and failing to convert a pair of lengthy 5-on-3 advantages. Vancouver trails 2-1 in the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal, and at 4-for-58 (6.9 percent) has the worst power play among active playoff teams entering games Monday night.
The answer may be to copy the Ducks, who were 2-for-5 with the man advantage Sunday, including Corey Perry’s winner 7:51 into the third period. Anaheim has the third-best power play in playoffs at 22.5 percent.
“Their power play is better than ours, no doubt about it,” said Markus Naslund, who scored the Canucks’ power-play goal on a rebound in Game 3.
“They’re doing a better job of screening our goalie and it’s two great goaltenders here and sometimes you got to screen them to get a goal. … We can all do a better job of getting in there and being smart about it, being hungrier on loose pucks and screens and rebounds.”
The Ducks go to the net with authority, often to the dismay of Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo, who said he’s seen more traffic in front of him in this series than at any other time in his career. Anaheim creates screens in front, as it did on Perry’s winning goal, and jams in rebounds, as defenseman Francois Beauchemin did on the Ducks’ other power-play goal.
Vancouver, meanwhile, has been stuck on the perimeter—when they gain the offensive zone at all. They failed to even set up on one power play Sunday, and when they did, there was no traffic in front of goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
“I can’t answer that for you, I’m the goalie,” said Luongo when asked if his team needs to copy Anaheim. “All I can say is for a goaltender the hardest part is having guys in front creating chaos. Those are the types of goals they score on the power play, so we should maybe try to do the same.”
The Canucks said they’ve been too slow, too predictable in their puck movement, unable to free up point men for clean shots and unwilling to provide screens when they do. This allows Giguere to make clean saves and eliminate rebounds, as he did several times during failed 5-on-3 attempts Sunday.
“When a team is struggling on the power play obviously the penalty killers are doing a great job,” said Chris Pronger, who anchors Anaheim’s penalty kill along with fellow Norris Trophy winner Scott Niedermayer. It also doesn’t hurt that Giguere is leading the league in save percentage (.955) and goals-against average (1.30).
“Usually your best penalty killer is your goalie and our goalie has given us an opportunity to stave off some real grim situations by not giving up that juicy rebound, not giving up that extra second and third whack at it,” coach Randy Carlyle said.
The Ducks have been outplayed at the start of all three games and were lucky to escape the first period Sunday tied 1-1 after being outshot 13-2. It’s a trend the Anaheim players vow to end Tuesday.
“It’s a pivotal game for us to take a stranglehold … and go up 3-1,” Pronger said, “but it’s going to take a better effort than we had in Game 3.”
At the other end, Vancouver’s penalty killing, which led the league in the regular season, has given up four goals to Anaheim.
They’ve missed forwards Matt Cooke (groin) and Ryan Kesler (broken finger) since the first game of the first round, but got defenseman Sami Salo back Sunday after missing the first two. Defender Kevin Bieksa could also play his first game of this series after practicing Monday.
“This is as close to a must win as it gets and we’re aware of that,” Naslund said.