VANCOUVER — The young Vancouver Canucks showed they have plenty to learn about closing out games on Saturday.
Alex Radulov scored the go-ahead goal with 3:23 left in regulation, lifting the Dallas Stars to a 2-1 win over Vancouver at Rogers Arena.
The slumping Canucks played a strong game and held a 1-0 lead up until midway through the third when Jamie Benn, who also assisted on Radulov’s winner, scored to tie it and put the Canucks on their heels. Suddenly, Vancouver was losing puck battles and turning the puck over.
Radulov’s winner came when Benn found the Russian winger skating in alone in the slot. Radulov made no error as he backhanded it in to quiet the crowd.
“This is a game that in my mind we lost down the stretch,” said Vancouver head coach Travis Green. “Their veteran guys took over. It happens fast and momentum changes. We played a real stingy game for 50 minutes and all of sudden their guys smelled blood. We cracked earlier than they did.”
“It’s a real tough way to lose. It’s a game we’ll learn more from than some of the other losses.”
There have been plenty of those lately, with Vancouver winning just once in the past 12 games. Bo Horvat scored for the Canucks (11-15-3), while Anders Nilsson was solid with 25 saves.
“It’s a matter of putting the full 60 together,” said Horvat. “The first and second we had our chances, with lots of shots on net. But no excuse — we need to be better.”
Hear from @BoHorvat, who scored his 12th goal of the season, after a tough game against the Stars. pic.twitter.com/cycTSn6viG
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) December 2, 2018
Ben Bishop made 24 saves in his first start for Dallas (14-10-3) since returning from a lower-body injury that kept him sidelined for five games. The Stars are fifth in the Central Division and currently own the Western Conference’s second wild-card spot.
“You’ve got to be able to close out games if you want to be a good team,” said Bishop. “It’s not always going to be pretty, but we found a way to do it tonight.
“You’ve just got to find ways. Finding different ways to win makes you a better team.”
Benn and Tyler Seguin were the busiest Stars offensively, swarming Nilsson all night. Nilsson was forced to make several strong saves against the duo, including a jaw-dropping glove grab against Seguin in the first.
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Benn said his near-misses only made him more determined.
“It makes you hungrier,” said Benn. “We had a lot (of chances) in the first and second that weren’t going in. I like how we stuck with it and found a way.”
The Canucks got on the board with just over four minutes to play in the first. Winger Antoine Roussel, a former Star, broke away along the wing and lobbed a rolling puck to Horvat, who got enough stick on it to beat Bishop.
The Stars goalie was solid at the other end in the second when he stopped Brock Boeser all alone on a breakaway.
“I wanted to go five-hole, but he read me like a book,” said Boeser. “It’s tough obviously, that play goes through my head a lot after the game and I’ll be thinking about it.”
Benn tied it 1-1 at 10:19 of the third. After a Miro Heiskanen shot from the point bounced through traffic at the net, Benn swooped around the back of the net and banged in the loose puck.
Jason Keller, The Canadian Press