VANCOUVER – With hopes of a playoff spot dimming, the Vancouver Canucks are growing frustrated.
The Canucks outshot the New York Islanders 36 to 23 on Saturday but couldn’t sneak a single puck past goalie Robin Lehner, who earned his team a 4-0 victory with his fourth shutout of the season.
The loss marked the eighth time this year that Vancouver (26-28-8) has been held off the scoreboard.
“We need to find ways to score at this time of the year,” said Canucks centre Bo Horvat. “These games are important, these points are important and we’ve got to find a way to do it.”
The Islanders lead the league in goals against, having allowed just 144 so far this season.
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Some bad bounces contributed to Saturday’s defeat, said Vancouver coach Travis Green.
“Pretty good hockey team. We hit three posts, had a puck on the goal line on the second. It’s unfortunate,” he said, adding that his squad should be upset with the result.
“There’s nothing wrong with being frustrated right now,” Green said. “They’ll be frustrated tonight, we’ll talk to them tomorrow and get them ready to play in the next game.”
The Canucks’ best chance on Saturday came on a power play midway through the second frame after Islanders centre Brock Nelson was called for holding. A shot from Ben Hutton clanked off the left post and the puck ricocheted off Lehner before New York defenceman Scott Mayfield scooped it off the goal line.
The Islanders goalie now has three shutouts in his last 19 games and 12 across his NHL career.
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“Honestly, I just want to win, I just want to win with this team,” Lehner said. “Every point we get with this group feel amazing, we’re still pushing in the standings and we’re having a good year.”
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Casey Cizikas opened the scoring 4:48 into the first period, corralling a bouncing puck and tapping it behind Jacob Markstrom. The 27-year-old centre has five goals in his last six games.
“Everybody in this room had a little chip on their shoulder,” Cizikas said. “We came out with four lines firing and we did a good job of hounding the puck and getting all over them and not really giving them too many chances, so if we continue doing that we are going to have more success.”
Ryan Pulock, Anthony Beauvillier and Cal Clutterbuck also scored for the Islanders (36-18-7). Markstrom put up 20 saves for the Canucks and said the final score was tough to take.
“It’s a frustrating game for a goalie,” he said. “You really want to help your team. I didn’t have many shots today and you obviously want to keep the score down and help our guys.”
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Vancouver has now lost three in a row and sits five points out of a Western Conference wild-card spot. Dropping tough games will hold lessons for the young team, said veteran centre Jay Beagle.
“You let it sting and you grow from it. We continue to work on our game individually and as a group,” he said. “You have to stick with it and if you play like we did tonight, the wins are going to come.”
Still, the Canucks are hopeful that they can climb back into the playoff race.
“No one in this room’s going to quit. We’ve got to stay positive, keep pushing,” Markstrom said. “We’re going to get some wins.”
The Canucks’ quest for a post-season berth will continue in Vancouver on Monday when they battle the Anaheim Ducks. The Islanders host the Flames on Tuesday.