Jordan Schroeder, who has battled foot and ankle injuries for the vast majority of this season, was due.
In his first National Hockey League game since Oct. 19 because of an ankle injury that required surgery, Schroeder scored a pair of goals courtesy lucky bounces off Edmonton Oilers defenceman Corey Potter. But one individual’s good fortune was not enough as the Vancouver Canucks lost by a final score of 4-2 at Rogers Arena.
Jesse Joensuu scored the winner for Edmonton early in the third period. The Oilers then locked it down, successfully, too, thanks to good goaltending and the post. That, and the Canucks’ best push came when they were trailing with about six minutes remaining.
“We just didn’t play hard enough. That’s what I think,” said Canucks coach Mike Sullivan.
“We’ve got to find a way as a group to play a more inspired game right now.”
The Canucks came into the game needing a win and an L.A. Kings loss to jump into third in the Pacific Division. But instead, with the loss to Edmonton and an L.A. win over San Jose, the Canucks fell three points back of the Kings.
It hasn’t been an easy few months for Schroeder, the Canucks’ first-round pick from the 2009 NHL Draft. He underwent shoulder surgery in the spring, and then fractured his foot blocking a shot in the pre-season.
He injured the same foot after just three regular season games, forcing him to leave the team while on a road trip through the Eastern Conference.
After a two-game conditioning stint with the AHL’s Utica Comets in Abbotsford this weekend, Schroeder returned to Vancouver’s lineup in a divisional match-up with the struggling Oilers.
Schroeder got Vancouver on the board in the first period, as his centering pass deflected off Potter and past Ilya Bryzgalov, tying the game at one-goal apiece.
David Booth afforded his teammate the chance to score after getting in on the forecheck and throwing a solid check on Anton Belov to force a turnover behind the net. Schroeder took the puck, threw it in front and got a fortuitous bounce for his first of the season.
He struck again in the second period, throwing the puck toward the net. His shot attempt once again hit off the skate of Potter and past an unsuspecting Bryzgalov, who barely flinched.
“Felt good, it was fun to get back out there, it’s disappointing we didn’t get the win,” said Schroeder.
“We made some mental mistakes, a few turnovers and cost us the game.”
Quite the welcome back, but not enough to mask the fact Daniel Sedin’s goal slump reached 13 games, and Alex Burrows’ slump reached 22 games. Ryan Kesler has one goal in his last 10 games.
“It’s hard to win unless your best players are your best players. It’s hard to win consistently,” said Sullivan.
“We’ve got to find a way to get our top guys going. The team relies on them to be more consistent in making contributions on the score sheet, and it’s hard to win in the absence of it.”
While the Canucks, specifically Schroeder, took advantage of early puck luck, the Oilers made the hosts pay for their mistakes – turnovers that led to odd-man rushes and defensive breakdowns.
Roberto Luongo put the blame on himself for the Joensuu goal, which managed to sneak through the goalie’s legs.
“I think that I’ve got to come up with a save in the third, there,” said Luongo. “It’s a tight game, I just need to come up with a save when the team needed it and I didn’t.”
David Perron scored the hat trick, with all three of his goals coming off Vancouver turnovers.
He buried a sweet one-time feed on a pass from Sam Gagner after a Jason Garrison turnover in the neutral zone to open the scoring in the first period.
He capitalized again, this time on a Zack Kassian turnover at the Vancouver blue line in the second period. His empty-net goal was also off a Kassian turnover, this time at the Edmonton line.
“Turnovers for me is something that is not playing smart enough and when you take a skilled, opportunistic group like the Oilers and you give them opportunities off the rush, they can hurt you,” said Sullivan.
The Canucks conclude this four-game home stand on Wednesday, when they host the rival Chicago Blackhawks.