Usually when two desperate teams meet with less than a month to go before the playoffs, overtime (and three-point games) are something close to an inevitability.
But that’s not how games have been going for the Vancouver Canucks of late.
For the fifth time in the last six contests, the Vancouver Canucks walked away without a single point.
And once again, they saw teams getting closer and closer in the rearview mirror.
With the Nashville Predators winning last night and the Minnesota Wild edging out the Anaheim Ducks tonight, the Canucks’ hold on that final wildcard spot in the Western Conference is as tenuous as ever.
But Vancouver ran into a hungry, fighting-for-its-life Columbus Blue Jackets team that got a solid performance out of a goaltender who hadn’t played for just under two weeks.
That the Canucks couldn’t take a point off a club that played (and lost) the night prior in Edmonton? Not a great sign.
Here’s what we saw in the Canucks’ 2-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Player of the night
There were a couple contenders from both sides, but it has to be Elvis Merzlikins, the rookie goaltender who caught fire in December but then stumbled badly, losing seven straight games and then getting hurt against Ottawa.
The Senators game was on February 24 and he wouldn’t see the crease again until tonight. The Canucks didn’t get an abundance of great chances, but they did throw 27 shots on Merzlikins, who didn’t show a single spot of rust.
Anger of the night
The Canucks’ only goal sure was a thing of beauty. And one of anger.
After accidentally elbowing Blue Jackets forward Eric Robinson in the face, Pettersson used his anger to fuel himself to a breakaway and then finished the play while being hauled down.
Annoyance of the night
You just know John Tortorella relishes winning against the Vancouver Canucks more than he does other teams.
And for the second time this month he’s handed his old team a very tough loss.
Underrated player of the night
Jake Virtanen might have been a minus-1 in just over 14 minutes of ice time, but he provided the Canucks a noticeable jump. He also drew an interference penalty and set a new record for Travis Green juggling his lines as he forced Loui Eriksson to the fourth line.
Atmosphere of the night
It was fairly packed in Rogers Arena. Sure, there were pockets of empty seats in the lower bowl especially, but neither COVID-19 nor what promised to be something of a boring affair against Columbus (which it mostly lived up to, notwithstanding Pettersson’s goal) seemed to keep fans away.
Weirdest name of the night
The very unheralded Eric Anderson (he’s apparently played 50 games for the Blue Jackets this year) had a pivotal goal in just over 12 minutes of ice time.
He’s also apparently from somewhere called Bellmawr, New Jersey and we weren’t sure that’s how the English language worked.
Lie of the night?
Pettersson tried to say he was trying to go five hole on his goal but it was pretty clear by his reaction (in the video above) that that wasn’t the case.
Worst chant of the night
Player of the night II
Pierre-Luc Dubois was a monster tonight. Especially when his team was really struggling in the first period, Dubois looked like the only Blue Jacket with any juice.
He made the first goal happen and was a thorn in Vancouver’s side all night.
Tribute of the night
Interviewing Team Canada’s Meghan Agosta (who doubles as a Vancouver police officer) during the second intermission on International Women’s Day was a nice touch.
Spark of the night
It really felt like the Canucks were going to score again after Pettersson’s tally. The crowd was into it, the Canucks were pressing, Columbus took a penalty. But alas, it wasn’t to be.
Summary of the night
And that’s just the way it’s been of late on many occasions. The Canucks seemed like a charmed team in the early goings of this season, always getting the breaks they needed, always able to pull out wins. And in many ways (injuries, puck luck), that’s coming back to haunt them.
Lately the Canucks have been the better team more often than not (they were tonight), but it’s not producing results.
With a tough schedule on the docket, it feels a little futile to hope those bounces come back. But that’s where we are.
Hope of the night
Green didn’t have an answer on if Brock Boeser was going to be able to play on Tuesday night against the New York Islanders. But the winger skated today.
Obviously, a Boeser return would be massive for a hockey club that would be able to boast a non-Loui Eriksson top six (granted, they can now) and two legitimate scoring lines.
If he returned on Tuesday it would essentially cut his original timetable in half. Now that’s the type of break this team could use.
Follow @ncaddell on Twitter