The Vancouver Canucks didn’t enter the Stanley Cup Playoffs realistically thinking they were going to sweep the defending champions.
They almost had the chance, instead falling a goal short of that opportunity when Brayden Schenn scored on an overtime breakaway to give the St. Louis Blues a 3-2 win in Game 3 of the Western Conference First Round at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Sunday.
“We’re a shot away from being up 3-0,” Vancouver coach Travis Green said. “It’s 2-1.”
That’s the setback the Canucks have to overcome as they again try to get within one win of taking the best-of-7 series in Game 4 in Edmonton, the Western Conference hub city, on Monday (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, FS-MW).
They just have to hope the Blues, who had not won in five games this postseason until Schenn scored, didn’t rediscover the mojo they had in the playoffs last year, when they won 16 of 26 games to win the Stanley Cup for the first time.
“I thought they were better tonight,” Canucks captain Bo Horvat said. “We knew they were going to come. They’re the defending Cup champs for a reason. They know what it takes to win and they definitely weren’t going to shy away from a fight. … But I can’t wait to play again tomorrow.”
If Game 3 is an indicator, the Canucks are going to need to generate more opportunities and spend more time in the offensive zone at 5-on-5 if they’re going to prevent the Blues from evening the series on Monday.
Vancouver’s power play struck again in Game 3 with a goal from J.T. Miller and is 6-for-11 in the series, but the Canucks got two power plays after getting nine in the first two games: 3-for-6 in Game 1 and 2-for-3 in Game 2.
The Blues were 0-for-2 without a shot on goal after going 2-for-9 in the first two games.
St. Louis had a 49-34 edge in 5-on-5 shots on goal in Game 3, pushing their advantage to 98-69 in the series, and had a 91-54 advantage in 5-on-5 shot attempts, increasing its lead to 185-126.
“They’ve got a good 5-on-5 team,” Green said. “They hang on to the puck well. They’ve got some strong players that can cycle down low with the puck. I think some of our lines have played very well 5-on-5.”
They can play better, Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler said.
“I think they were good, but I don’t think we were at our best,” Edler said. “We’ve got to come back tomorrow and give them our best.”
Horvat said he thought the Canucks shied away from their identity at times in Game 3. Green said that’s likely a result of turnovers in the neutral zone.
“I think that stopped us from getting after our game, the forechecking game, playing in their zone,” Green said. “But again, we’re a shot away from winning the game, had some good looks. Back at it tomorrow.”
Game 4 will start about 21 hours after Game 3 ended, which is maybe the best thing going for the Canucks now, Green said, even if it means goalie Jacob Markstrom has limited time to rest and recover after facing 49 shots.
“We’ve talked about having short-term memory,” Green said. “Whatever happens in any game, whether you win or lose, you’ve got to enjoy it or dwell on it for a little bit, and then park it and get ready to play. … I know our guys are excited to come back and play tomorrow. We’ve got to play good every game. If you don’t play close to your best, it’s hard to win. I thought we weren’t quite there tonight. That’s a really good hockey team over there. We’ll be ready to go tomorrow.”