Was it a blip or a sign of things to come?
That was the question after the Vancouver Canucks squandered a lead and lost 3-2 in Calgary on Thursday night.
For the first time this season, the Canucks lost in regulation time when leading after two periods. They had gone 33 games with only two extra-time losses when leading after two.
Vancouver suffered from bad timing as it missed a chance to gain a lock on first place overall in the NHL. The New York Rangers did them a favor by losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier Thursday, but the Canucks could not capitalize and both teams remained deadlocked, notwithstanding tiebreakers, with 109 points.
The Canucks also squandered a chance to move two points further ahead of the St. Louis Blues, who were idle, in the battle for first place in the Western Division. The Canucks hold a two-point lead, but the Blues have a game in hand.
In other words, Vancouver can probably kiss first place in the West goodbye. Ditto for the top spot overall. The Blues are likely to earn their way into first place in the West, and have a shot at first overall, too.
"We picked a bad time to have a bad third period, myself included," Canucks goalie Cory Schneider told reporters. "It's something we, as a team, pride ourselves on -- closing out games by playing good third periods. I think we're all a little stung by blowing that lead but there's nothing we can do now.
"If we get to the late rounds like we want, you hope it's not something you look back on (with regret), but it could be."
Accordingly, it's important for the Canucks to shrug off the setback, which ended their win streak at seven games. Even with an injury to scoring star Daniel Sedin (concussion), they have been ramping up for the playoffs the right way.
They have cast aside injuries to key players, a goaltending controversy that has picked up steam, and determined teams that were fighting for the playoff lives -- but, in many cases, lost because of Vancouver. (See Dallas and Colorado for details.)
The Western Conference playoff teams are set now. As the Canucks prepare for their final game of the regular season Saturday at home against Edmonton, only the pairings remain to be determined. The Canucks might not control their playoff destiny in terms of placing or opponent, but they are still assured of home-ice advantage in the first round and second round, if they get that far. So it's time for the Canucks to chill -- because, undoubtedly, their fans will fret for them.
The real season is about to begin, and Vancouver should be looking forward rather than back.
Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.