1) Add Thursday's 3-2 loss in Nashville to a large pile of games in which the Vancouver Canucks showed up, battled hard but ultimately were unable to win. Facing a Predators team needing a victory to stay in the hunt for the Central Division title, the Canucks had to know they would be tested in the third period. And they were. For 15 minutes, they withstood some serious Preds pressure. When Jacob Markstrom stared down Nashville's leading goal-scorer Viktor Arvidsson on a breakaway with six minutes to go and the Canucks leading 2-1, it seemed like maybe the Predators had blown their best chance at a comeback. But good teams stick with it and that's exactly what Nashville did. They continued to get pucks to the Canucks net and were rewarded with two goals in the final five minutes to eke out the 3-2 victory. After the game, Travis Green suggested his young players would learn from a loss like this one. He had Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat and Troy Stecher on the ice in the final minute with the game tied 2-2 when Filip Forsberg out-battled a couple of Canucks forwards and Ryan Johansen banked the winner in off Stecher. Green said: 'sometimes you learn hard lessons. To play against teams like Nashville that have been there for a while and are big and heavy teams that know how to win at this time of year, it's good for our young guys to play in these types of games.'
2) One of the lessons Travis Green's team needs to learn for next season is how to lock down 2-0 leads. For the fourth time in the last 11 games, a 2-0 lead evaporated on the Canucks. It happened in a 3-2 shootout loss to New Jersey on March 15th and the following game on March 17th in Dallas. It happened again against the Stars on March 30th and then on Thursday in Nashville. The Canucks managed to beat the Stars both times in a shootout, so they escaped unscathed on those occasions. But the Predators took control for long stretches of both the second and third periods outshooting the Canucks 24-16 over the final 40. According to naturalstattrick.com, the scoring chances over the last two periods favoured Nashville 28-16 and the high-danger chances were charted at 13-7 for the Preds. The Canucks did well to build the 2-0 lead and had Nashville on its heels for much of the first period when the shots were 16-9 in Vancouver's favour. But it's a 60-minute game and the Canucks have to find ways to spend more of the night in the opponents end. Sitting back and defending is a dangerous way to play. Thursday was another harsh reminder of that.
3) It was a night of strange goals -- at both ends of the ice. Tanner Pearson's eighth goal as a Canuck hit the crossbar, the back of Pekka Rinne's head and trickled across the goal line with 11 seconds to go in the first period. At that point and with that kind of good fortune, it seemed perhaps it would be the Canucks night. But 37 seconds into the second period, a Colton Sissons shot squeezed through Jacob Markstrom (the kind of goal he has all but eliminated from his game since early December) and slipped across the line. Although the whistle sounded before the puck entered the net, it was ruled the goal was the result of a continuous play and so it counted. The second Preds goal was reviewed for goaltender interference after Austin Watson collided with Jacob Markstrom and in the process bumped the puck across the goal mouth to teammate Nick Bonino. And the game winner deflected off the stick of Troy Stecher past Markstrom and into the net with 20 seconds to go. The goal was challenged for off-side, although it was quickly deemed to be a goal. The Preds didn't really score a clean goal on the night, but they all looked good to the home team and its fans.
4) Quinn Hughes has been every bit as advertised as a guy who could step right into the National Hockey League and produce. With a pair of power play assists to help stake the Canucks to a 2-0 first period lead, Hughes picked up his second and third points in his fourth NHL game. His helper on the game's opening goal was a dazzling display of his talents as he carried the puck into the Nashville zone, worked a give and go with Markus Granlund and as two Predator defenders were drawn to Hughes along left wing, he dished a backhand pass onto the stick of Granlund who took advantage of a wide open lane to the net to score for the second straight game and for the 12th time this season. With Hughes as the helm, the Canucks second power play unit produced both Vancouver goals as the team went two for two on the night. It's too late to help the hockey club for this season, but the resurgent power play is now 9 for its last 32 (28.1%) over the past dozen games. Thursday was the eighth time this season -- but just the third since Christmas -- that the Canucks power play scored multiple goals in the same game. Hughes played 18:50 on the night including 1:23 with the man-advantage. His ice time has grown in each of his first four games from 15:36 (vs LAK) to 16:05 (vs DAL) to 18:37 (vs SJS) to Thursday's 18:50 in Nashville.
5) When the Canucks review their season after Saturday's finale and look for areas of improvement for next season, without a doubt their road record will stand out. Especially their record away from home in the second half of the season. Since December 29th, the Canucks have one regulation win in their last 19 road contests. That came on February 2nd in Colorado. The Canucks are 3-8-2 in their last 13 road games and 5-11-2 in their last 18 away from home. With a road heavy start to the schedule that saw the team play 17 of its first 26 games this season away from home, the Canucks managed to more than hold their own through the first half of the season. After a 3-2 overtime win in Calgary on December 29th, the Canucks were 10-9-3 away from home. Since then it's been a struggle for individuals and as a result for the team. Elias Pettersson (6+6=12) and Brock Boeser (4+8=12) are the only plays to reach double-digits in road points over the past 18. Antoine Roussel is next with seven points. Bo Horvat was a beast on the road scoring 12 times in his first 22 road games this season. Since December 13th in Nashville, he has just one road goal -- an overtime winner in Chicago on March 18th in his last 20 road games. I point that out not to throw shade at Horvat, but rather to show his importance to the hockey club and to underscore how much he needs to get away from tough match-ups to be able to provide offense. When he was firing on all cylinders on the road early in the season, the Canucks were holding their own. It's never just one player, but Horvat is such an important part of the Canucks success moving forward. This is just another reminder the Canucks need to surround him with quality wingers and put him in positions to have success. That hasn't always been the case over the second half of the season and it shows up in the box scores on the road.