bieksa angry face

Columnist: Canucks fans should be nervous after team loses for first time in eight games


Who says Vancouverites overreact whenever the local hockey squadron loses?

/makes riot joke

In today’s Vancouver Province, Jim Jamieson has a piece titled “Canucks nation nervous after ugly 3-2 loss to sputtering Flames.”

Since we realize newspaper writers aren’t responsible for headlines, here’s the lead:

CALGARY — It was the kind of stumble that’s certain to make Canucks Nation a little nervous heading into the playoffs.

The Canucks squandered a chance to put themselves in the driver’s seat for the Presidents’ Trophy here on Thursday, blowing a 1-0 third-period lead en route to a sloppy 3-2 loss to a Flames team that was out of it last week and looked for most of the first two periods like they were ripe for the picking.

Just to clarify, the Canucks went into the Calgary game…

— Riding a seven-game winning streak, one of the longest in franchise history (record is 10.)

— As one of only two teams with 50 wins (Pittsburgh became the third after beating the Rangers.)

— Having already clinched the Northwest Division and a top-two spot in the Western Conference.

— Holding a two-point lead on St. Louis for first in the West.

— Tied with the Rangers in the Presidents’ Trophy race.

Granted, there were a couple of negatives. The Canucks no longer control their own fate for first overall in the league. They also lost the NHL’s longest streak of not losing in regulation after leading after two periods (102 games, 97-0-5).

That said, the piece was written in a week where St. Louis was listless in a 5-2 loss to Columbus; Boston sat out Tim Thomas, Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron in Ottawa while Chicago scratched Dave Bolland and Andrew Brunette with minor injuries against the Wild.

In other words, it’s not unusual for contenders to take it easy at this point in the season.

What’s ironic about Vancouver is a similar situation happened last year. The Canucks won 12 of 13 to win the Presidents’ Trophy, then went out and laid back-to-back eggs against Edmonton, causing widespread panic throughout the city.

“Right now we don’t have much to play for and it is tough for some of the guys,” Roberto Luongo said at the time, trying to calm the masses. “But we know what we have to do. We need to have a couple good performances to get ready for the playoffs.”

Vancouver then proceeded to make its first Stanley Cup finals appearance in 17 years.

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist

DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.

Fabbri’s first spoils McDavid’s debut as Blues down Oilers

Robby Fabbri, Justin Schultz
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rookie Robby Fabbri scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period to help the St. Louis Blues beat Edmonton 3-1 Thursday night, spoiling Oilers rookie Connor McDavid‘s NHL debut.

Vladimir Tarasenko had the tying goal for the Blues near the midpoint of the second period, and Troy Brouwer added an empty-netter with 18 seconds remaining in the third. Brian Elliott finished with 23 saves.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored in the first period for Edmonton and Cam Talbot had 28 saves.

McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, took 22 shifts, played 18:07 and was on the ice for Brouwer’s goal. He had two shots on goal, and struggled on faceoffs – winning only three of 13.

Fabbri, a 19-year-old forward — and McDavid’s childhood friend — was also playing in his first NHL game. The Blues’ first-round pick in 2014 was one of three rookies in the St. Louis lineup, joining defensemen Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson.

Nugent-Hopkins gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead late in the first period with a fluke power-play goal. He lost a face-off but when Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tried to clear the puck it bounced off Alexander Steen and past Brian Elliott. Nugent-Hopkins was credited with the unassisted power-play goal with 2:38 remaining in the period.

Tarasenko tied it a 9:10 of the second after getting loose on a breakaway with a stretch pass from Alex Pietrangelo and beating Talbot through his legs.

Tarasenko, who signed an eight-year, $60 million extension in the offseason, was the last Blues player to score in his debut.

NOTES: McDavid and F Anton Slepyshev made their NHL debuts for the Oilers. … St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina dropped the ceremonial first puck. … The attendance was announced as standing room-only 19,327.