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Canucks facing hard questions after trailing Flames 3-1 in playoff series

Vancouver Canucks' Luca Sbisa, left, is checked by Calgary Flames' Michael Ferland, right, and David Jones during the first period of Game 4 of a first-round NHL hockey playoff series, Tuesday, April 21, 2015, in Calgary, Alberta.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
April 22, 2015 - 6:58 AM

CALGARY - The Vancouver Canucks flew back home after Tuesday night's 3-1 Game 4 loss to the Calgary Flames facing a number of questions.

Among them are who starts in goal in Game 5 and what has happened to Vancouver's penalty kill.

Trailing 3-1 in the first round series, there is no more wiggle room for error.

"We're a confident group when we've faced elimination before," said Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa. "The last one's the toughest one to win, so we go back home and we put everything we can into that one, try to get that game and then put the pressure back on them."

In net, Ryan Miller made his first appearance of the series starting the second period after Eddie Lack was beaten three times on seven shots in the opening 20 minutes.

Miller, who missed six weeks at the end of the season with a knee injury, was perfect on 15 shots.

Canucks coach Willie Desjardins said he has in his mind, who will get the call but he would not reveal what he's thinking.

"I thought he played really well," said Desjardins about Miller. "If he's 100 per cent or not, I'll have to see after the game."

While Lack had no chance on the first goal and the second was a deflection, he blamed himself on the third goal, a shot off the wing that glanced in off Sam Bennett as he crashed the net.

"The first two went in, two goals on four shots, then you start over-challenging," said Lack, whose save percentage in the series fell to .886. "You want it so much, but goaltending doesn't work that way.

"I felt like I was over-committing a little too much to the shot. It was credited to Sam Bennett but I think it would have gone in anyhow. It's a shot that I've got to have. I felt like I was out of position."

The penalty kill is another area of concern.

Vancouver had the second-best penalty kill during the regular season but has given up four power-play goals on 11 tries in the playoffs.

The inability to kill two early penalties cost them as the Flames took a 3-1 lead after the first period despite being outshot 11-7.

"The first one was late in the kill, the second one hit a stick in front," said Desjardins. "It's not like they're dominated but they found ways. They're a high-skilled group, they're going to get chances."

Bieksa knows it's an area they need to be better in.

"The PK has got to do a better job and we have to bail out some of these penalties," Bieksa said. "The penalty kill's been a strong suit all year, but we're letting too many shots from the point right now and they're finding a way in on us."

In a stretch of post-season misery that dates back to Game 6 of the 2011 Stanley Cup final against Boston, the Canucks have lost 13 of their last 15 playoff games. Now they're faced with the daunting task of winning three straight against a young Calgary team brimming with confidence.

"Take today, be mad, be a little bit pissed off, then come back to work tomorrow and prepare for Game 5," said Lack.

Vancouver has come back from a 3-1 deficit three times previously, most recently in the first round in 2003 when they did it against the St. Louis Blues. But the immediate focus is extending the series beyond Thursday.

"We have to play well at home, just to give us a chance to get back here," said Desjardins.

But they may have to do it without Alex Burrows. The right-winger did not play after being taken away from the Saddledome earlier in the day by ambulance with an upper body injury.

He will stay overnight in Calgary and if all goes well, will return to Vancouver on Wednesday.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2015
The Canadian Press

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