VANCOUVER — Bad habits seem to be creeping back into the Vancouver Canucks’ game as the season ticks away.
After taking an early 2-0 lead Tuesday, the Canucks saw the Seattle Kraken steadily claw their way back for a 5-2 victory.
“At the end of the first, we kind of just let up the play, let them take over,” said centre Elias Pettersson. “The power play wasn’t good again. We’ve got to, first off, bury the chances we create. But just be more disciplined or just work harder.”
Jordan Eberle scored and notched an assist for the Kraken (43-26-8), while Yanni Gourde, Brandon Tanev, Jayden Schwartz and Matty Beniers — into an empty net — all added goals.
Martin Jones made 16 saves for Seattle, who were coming off an 8-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Monday and collected consecutive wins for the first time since March 7.
“That’s a character win down the stretch here when there’s not many games left and two points mean that much more,” Tanev said.
Pettersson and Anthony Beauvillier scored for the Canucks (34-36-7), and Collin Delia stopped 23-of-28 shots.
Vancouver has now lost four in a row and coach Rick Tocchet said, with the team out of playoff contention, some players may be viewing the final games of the season as meaningless.
“Some guys are maybe getting tired. … A lot of people in and out of the lineup. Maybe that’s it, I don’t know,” he said. “But the fact of the matter is you can’t think that way. We have to be strong mentally.”
An ugly second period proved to be Vancouver’s undoing Tuesday.
Up 2-1 coming out of the first intermission, the Canucks had a prime opportunity to add to their tally early in the frame with 55 seconds of five-on-three hockey, but struggled to get a shot off.
Instead, Tanev whipped a wrist shot past Delia off a short-handed two-on-one 5:07 into the period, levelling the score at 2-2.
“That was definitely a momentum swing for us,” Eberle said.
“Our kill has been doing a really good job and then chipping in offensively too, which you don’t expect. Those are key moments in games where you’re able to swing the momentum of the game and we’ve been able to do that.”
Seattle went 1-for-4 with the man advantage Tuesday, while Vancouver was 0-for-5.
Canucks centre J.T. Miller said his team’s power play has been inconsistent recently.
“It just seems sloppy and we seem to be getting on our own page a little bit when things aren’t going our way,” he said. “And we’re not really making a difference in the game lately, which sucks.”
The Kraken took the lead 10:40 into the period after the Canucks coughed up the puck at the goal line. Eberle picked it up and blasted a quick shot in off the crossbar for his 18th of the season.
A power-play tally boosted the visitor’s advantage to 4-2 after Pettersson was called for interference.
Daniel Sprong sent a shot through traffic from the top of the slot and Eberle got a piece of it before Schwartz tipped it in past Delia for his 20th of the campaign 16:14 into the second.
The Kraken have power-play goals in four straight games.
Miller came close to getting a goal back on a breakaway late in the second, but saw his chance thwarted by Beniers.
The centre then headed off the ice and down the tunnel to the team’s dressing room with about 30 seconds left in the period.
Tocchet said Miller was frustrated, but noted that players need to control their body language.
“I thought we’ve been getting better at it, but it’s not going to creep back in. It won’t. I’m not going to allow it,” said the coach, who took over behind Vancouver’s bench on Jan. 22.
“Because body language is just not mental toughness. It’s weak. It’s weak-minded people when you have body language like that.”
Each side took two wins in the four-game season series between the two squads, with Vancouver collecting a 5-4 victory in Seattle on Oct. 27 and a 6-5 shootout win on home ice on Dec. 22. The Kraken topped the Canucks at Climate Pledge Arena on Jan. 25, marking the franchise’s first ever win over the Canucks.
KUZMENKO’S ELITE COMPANY
With an assist on Pettersson’s goal, Kuzmenko hit 70 points (37 goals, 33 assists) on the season, joining Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane as just the third player to hit the mark in the first year of his NHL career.
Canucks: Continue a five-game homestand against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday.
Kraken: Host the Coyotes on Thursday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 4, 2023.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press