VANCOUVER -- When the red light came on, it was clear that somebody had made a mistake. Either it was Dan Hamhuis, attempting to carry the puck through the neutral zone with Trevor Lewis pressuring him from behind; or it was the official, failing to call Lewis for taking him down.
"I was told that wasn't a penalty," Alain Vigneault deadpanned in the postgame presser.
Regardless of who erred (I'm saying Hamhuis), the Canucks' blueliner lost his footing and the puck, and Jarrett Stoll turned back towards Cory Schneider with possession. Stoll did not err, beating Schneider on the short side to give the Los Angeles Kings the 2-1 overtime victory.
And, just like that, Stanley Cup runners up from a year ago and the reigning Presidents' Trophy winners were eliminated from the playoffs in 5 games.
Nobody in the Canucks' locker room was pointing any fingers on the game-winning goal. Rather, they traced the cause of the early exit a little further back -- to Games 1 and 2, games the team felt they ceded far too easily.
"The first two games we made a lot of mistakes that were not common for us," mumbled Sami Salo. "[We] took a lot of undisciplined penalties and gave them unnecessary momentum."
The Sedins had more to say on the matter.
"These past three games, we played like we did last year," said Daniel Sedin. "For some reason we couldn't do it in the first two. Just overexcited or whatever it is, but if we would have played like we did these last three games it would have been a different series."
Henrik Sedin broke it down game by game.
"The first game, we took way too many penalties, and the second game, our powerplay cost us the game. If you do that in a 7-game series, you give away two games. [Then] you've got to win 4 of 5, and that's tough when they don't give you an inch."
Did he feel the absence of Daniel Sedin, who returned for Game 4 after missing the first three with a concussion, made a difference?
"We could see that it was a different game," Henrik said of Daniel's injection into the lineup. "But again, if you give this effort and we execute the way we have in the past 3 games, I still think if he wouldn't have been there we would have been in the first 3 games as well."
For the Canucks' captain, it was consistency that got Vancouver to the Stanley Cup Final last postseason, and it was the lack thereof that killed them here.
"Last year, we didn't outplay any teams going to the Final. But we played good enough to be in every game and if you do that, you're gonna get bounces and be in most of the games. You play within your system, you play tight defensively, we've got the skill to take over games. But if you give away 2 games in the series, it's tough to come back."
But the team wasn't taking anything away from the Kings, who got great goaltending from Jonathan Quick and played airtight defensively in front of him.
"Quick didn't miss on a single puck the whole series," said Cory Schneider. "They as a whole group, they're a little underrated, they do a great job of preventing second chances and rebounds."
Schneider gave Jarrett Stoll all the credit on the game-winner as well.A video or other embedded content has been hidden. Click here to view it.
"I saw a 2-on-1 develop, it's my job to take the shooter and I tried to do that, but he had a quick release and made a great shot over my shoulder," said Schneider. "He made a big shot in a big moment."
But if the Canucks had played better from the outset of this series, that moment might not have been so big.
Now the team heads into an offseason full of questions.
Most of the core is locked up, but is it the right core? The Sedins were difference-makers, but Ryan Kesler disappeared down the stretch, going 16 games without a goal. GM Mike Gillis acquired David Booth to give him a running mate, and the two played a strong possession game, but they were unable to generate any offence. Will a full year together allow them to work things out as a duo?
And speaking of duos, the Canucks' goaltending situation is suddenly a mess.
Roberto Luongo is locked into a contract through 2022, but he lost his job this postseason. Cory Schneider ends the year as the starter; will he be the starter to begin the next one? Schneider's an RFA, so he'll need a contract. And if you give him one, what do you do with Luongo?
There will be questions about Alain Vigneault. The coach has led the Canucks to back-to-back Presidents' Trophies but he's failed to get them out of the second round in every playoffs but last. Will that be enough to necessitate a coaching change?
And on the backend, the Canucks have to be wondering about Alex Edler, who was far from the Norris candidate his regular season numbers indicated he was blossoming into. Do the Canucks trust him to be a top pairing guy, or will they look to retool on the backend?
There are a lot of questions for Mike Gillis and, unfortunately, he'll have two more months to work them out than he had hoped.
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