This is not the way the Ducks had envisioned their first two games of a critical road trip.
An early three-goal deficit was too much for Anaheim to overcome in a 4-1 loss at Vancouver. It was the Ducks second loss in as many nights in Western Canada after being defeated by the Flames 3-1 on Tuesday.
"We put ourselves in a tough spot by the way we played early in the season and our room for error is minimal," Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer said. "So it's frustrating when you don't get points when you need them."
The Canucks, one of the best teams at home in the NHL, rushed out to a 3-0 lead in the first 26:19 of the game. Saku Koivu would score his 15th goal of the season in the third period, but that would be all the offense for the Ducks.
Jonas Hiller made 26 saves in his 19th consecutive start as Anaheim, who fell 11 points behind Detroit for the final Western Conference playoff spot with nine games left.
Anaheim also lost top center and leading scorer Ryan Getzlaf after Henrik Sedin fell on his right ankle midway through the second period. Getzlaf, who almost missed the Olympics with an ankle injury, only played two shifts after.
"When it gets aggravated the way it did tonight, there's nothing a whole lot we could do to settle it down so I could go back out there," Getzlaf said. "I'm never going to pull myself out of anything."
Andrew Raycroft enjoyed his first start in Vancouver ahead of Roberto Luongo, but the backup quickly put to rest any talk of a goaltending controversy.
Making a rare start on home ice after Luongo admittedly struggled during a 3-2 loss in Edmonton the night before, Raycroft finished with 30 saves against the Ducks.
"Let's be serious. Take a deep breath everybody," Raycroft said when asked about a possible goalie controversy after becoming just the second backup in four seasons to start in Vancouver ahead of a healthy Luongo.
"This guy I've watched for 60 games is a special guy."
Luongo is 6-3-1 since backstopping Canada to Olympic gold, but has a .894 save percentage, a 3.20 goals-against average and was pulled twice in that span. In the same time Raycroft is 2-0-1, improving to 8-4-1 on the season with a .917 save percentage and 2.30 goals-against - both slightly better than Luongo.
"You're not going to give him up for any of the 29 other goalies in the league that are starting," Raycroft said of Luongo, who is tied for fifth in the NHL with 37 wins. "And that's the reality of this whole thing."
Daniel Sedin had a goal and two assists, and twin brother Henrik added three assists as the Canucks bounced back from the loss to last-place Edmonton on Tuesday. Christian Ehrhoff, Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler, into an empty net with 30 seconds left, also scored as Vancouver won for just the second time in five games to remain five points ahead of Colorado atop the Northwest Division.
Henrik Sedin also moved into the NHL scoring lead with 99 points, one more than Washington's Alex Ovechkin, but was more concerned with the team's position.
"Hopefully first of all we can win the division and we'll see how (the scoring race) works out," said Henrik, admitting he's excited about getting to 100 points. "It's a milestone not a while lot of Swedish players have done."
Ehrhoff opened the scoring with a power-play point shot through traffic 8:31 in, and Daniel Sedin scored for a third straight game on a strange play with 3:12 left. After cutting behind Burrows as they crossed the blue line on a 2-on-2 rush, Sedin lifted a high, arcing backhand over the heads of Burrows and Hiller, who was crouching to find the puck as it went into the net.
"Of course, you didn't see that?" Daniel said when asked if he was trying to score. "No, Burr was going to the net and I threw it on net hoping it would hit something so I was fortunate to see it go in."
Niedermayer said the Ducks never recovered.
"The way they scored that second goal we just weren't mentally tough enough to stick with it," he said. "We got away from our game plan."
The Sedins set up the third goal 6:19 into the second period - and it was a lot prettier. Daniel forced a turnover behind the Anaheim net out to Henrik at the side of the goal, and his spinning blind backhand pass left Burrows with an empty net at the other side for his team-leading 33rd goal of the season.
"It's a lot of fun when things are working out," Henrik said.
NOTES: Curtis Sanford was the only other backup to play ahead of a healthy Luongo in Vancouver, back on Jan. 11, 2008. ... Anaheim called up D Brendan Mikkelson, who played his junior hockey in Vancouver, from the AHL but didn't use him. Vancouver signed local product Prab Rai earlier in the day.
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