Ducks down Canucks to officially eliminate Vancouver from playoff contention

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April 7, 2014, Vancouver (ISN) – John Gibson made 18 saves to record a shutout in his first NHL game Monday as the Anaheim Ducks defeated the Canucks 3-0 to officially eliminate Vancouver from playoff contention.

Daniel Winnik, Kyle Palmieri and Matt Beleskey had the goals for Anaheim (51-20-8), which is in a dog fight with the San Jose Sharks for first place in the Pacific Division.

Eddie Lack stopped 20 shots in his 19th straight start for Vancouver (35-33-11) since the Olympic break.

The Canucks’ post-season chances had been reduced to a mere mathematical possibility in recent weeks and they were finally knocked off the cliff by a Ducks team that looks primed for a long playoff run.

Despite being down 1-0 after a flat first period and with their season on the line, it was more of the same for Vancouver in the second as the Canucks iced the puck three times in the opening minutes of the period and collected just three shots in total.

Anaheim grabbed a 2-0 lead at 17:03 when Palmieri deflected a point shot home past Lack for his 14th goal of the season that seemed to deflate the Vancouver bench even further.

Prior to that back-breaker, the Canucks had a couple chances to at least direct pucks at Anaheim’s rookie netminder, but both Jannik Hansen and Daniel Sedin passed up shooting opportunities in favour of passes that failed to connect.

Vancouver had just nine shots to Anaheim’s 18 through two periods and there was a smattering of boos as the players left the ice for the intermission, with fans resigned to the fact that there will be no playoff hockey at Rogers Arena this spring for the first time in six years.

The Ducks — who sit three points ahead of the Sharks for top spot in the Pacific Division and have a crucial home date against San Jose on Wednesday — basically put things on autopilot in the third to help snap a two-game slide that included Sunday’s loss to the Edmonton Oilers.

Anaheim made it 3-0 against the sleepy Canucks 1:20 into the third when Beleskey finished off a pretty passing play with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf for his seventh of the season.

Moments earlier, the Ducks moved in on a 2-on-0 break but Lack managed to thwart Andrew Cogliano’s effort.

Gibson didn’t have a lot to do on the night, but did make a huge save on Niklas Jensen to preserve the shutout with about eight minutes gone in the third.

Once the hottest ticket in town, the lower bowl at Rogers Arena was dotted by hundreds of empty seats throughout the game, and many of the fans who did show up started heading to the exits long before the final buzzer sounded.

Some of those who remained voiced their displeasure with Canucks president and general manager Mike Gillis by starting a “Fire Gillis” chant in the dying minutes.

Coming of a spirited 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night that kept their minuscule playoff hopes alive, the Canucks didn’t seem ready off Monday’s opening faceoff.

Lack stopped Cogliano on a breakaway 15 seconds into the first period after he stripped defenceman Jason Garrison of the puck, but the Canucks goaltender couldn’t bail his team a second time after another gaffe a few minutes.

With Vancouver on the power play, Winnik jumped on a mistake by Canucks captain Henrik Sedin and moved in alone to rip his sixth of the season at 6:26 over Lack’s blocker.

Vancouver had a couple of chances later in the man advantage, including a scramble in front of Gibson that saw the puck dribble off the post and stay out. Canucks defenceman Alexander Edler then ripped another shot off the iron that fooled the 20-year-old Gibson, who is seen by many as Anaheim’s goalie of the future.

Ryan Kesler then raced in on a short-handed breakaway late in the period, but Ducks defenceman Hampus Lindholm made a great play to strip the Canucks forward of the puck.

Notes: The game marked Teemu Selanne’s final visit to Vancouver as a player. Set to retire after the post-season, 43-year-old has said repeatedly that the city is his favourite stop in the NHL. The Canucks honoured Selanne with a brief scoreboard tribute in the first period. … The Ducks are 10-1-2 in the second of back-to-back games this season, including two wins against the Canucks. … Anaheim now has a 110 points in 2013-14, which tied a franchise record set in 2006-07 when the club won its only Stanley Cup. … Gibson led the United States to gold at the 2013 world junior hockey championship. … The Canucks host the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night.

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