Coach Q: Loss 'worst game of year'

Brandon Saad and the Blackhawks got pushed around by the Canucks on Monday. AP Photo/Jonathan Hayward

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- They didn't look like the best team in the NHL.

After playing so well for so much of the season the Chicago Blackhawks almost expected things to go south sometime. And it happened Monday night in a 3-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks.

"That was the worst game of the year," said coach Joel Quenneville.

Hard to argue.

Sometimes a team loses a game. Other nights they are beaten. The Blackhawks were beaten by the Canucks.

"Right from the first period they outskated us," said defenseman Duncan Keith, who was a spectator on Henrik Sedin's pretty breakaway goal late in the third period.

"We took too many penalties. Overall it was a bad game. I'm not surprised by it. I'm disappointed. We are all guilty of it."

From the moment the puck dropped the Blackhawks looked a step behind the Canucks.

Vancouver was faster and used the body more. The Canucks' Max Lapierre dished out nine hits and Ryan Kesler delivered four bone-rattling checks and dared Jonathan Toews to drop his gloves after the Blackhawks captain slashed him across the legs.

"We know when we play Vancouver it's an intense game," said Quenneville. "We have to be ready. They were much more prepared to compete at that level that's necessary to win in our game. Give them credit."

Maybe what was most frustrating for the Blackhawks is the Canucks made them look bad. Vancouver jumped into the passing lanes, making it hard for the Blackhawks to get out of their own end.

When the Blackhawks finally gained the offensive zone they were pushed to the outside and had few clear shots at Vancouver goaltender Cory Schneider.

Besides Sedin, Zack Kassian and Jannik Hansen, on the power play, scored for Vancouver.

Daniel Carcillo scored his second goal of the season for Chicago in the third period.

After the morning skate, Toews was asked what the Blackhawks needed to do during the final week of the season to prepare for the playoffs.

"I think maybe a couple of these games we haven't had the jump we had before," he said. "We've been doing a good job of playing with good habits, and not getting away from our game plan.

"We have played very smart in our defensive zone. When you hang around games like that, play patient, smart hockey, you still will find a way to win, even though you might not be carrying the play for 60 minutes. We are going to improve on that."

That didn't happen Monday night, when the Hawks lost in regulation time for only the sixth time this year.

Chicago still leads the league with a 34-6-5 record. There is no panic. But the Blackhawks also understand the shine of a brilliant regular season can be tarnished by an early playoff exit.

"We're not going to panic but we know we need to be better in a game like this," said Keith.

"We're not happy about tonight. We know we need to play with more jump than we did tonight. It's one game we are not happy with. We know what we are capable of doing in this room. It's just a matter of sticking with it and staying positive."

Quenneville said he wasn't going to lose too much sleep over the loss.

"I'm not concerned at all," he said. "We will throw it in the garbage can."