VANCOUVER - Dan Hamhuis sat on the ice, in front of the penalty box, staring up at a referee in disbelief.
His immediate reaction was he wanted a penalty called on Los Angeles Kings pesky forward Trevor Lewis. But the Canucks' best player in the series - maybe all season - spoke honestly afterwards. He knew his opponent made a good play to cause a turnover.
The back-checking former Owen Sound Attack forward stole the puck from Hamhuis in the neutral zone. Then, in a flash, Kings centre Jarret Stoll fired home the overtime winner. Game over. The season was over for Hamhuis and the Canucks. They couldn't win at home when it mattered.
Sound familiar? There was the devastation from a Game 7 loss in the Stanley Cup final against the Boston Bruins. Then, the destruction of a city afterwards. Now there is more heartbreak for Vancouverites to deal with.
Sure, this seemed inevitable after the Canucks poor start at home in this first-round series. The Presidents' Trophy winners, with the fifth best home record in the NHL this season, were down and out early with two losses. But then in Los Angeles, backup goalie Cory Schneider rode the rescue. He did his best to save the Canucks' season. The return of sniper Daniel Sedin didn't hurt either.
In the end, however, the Canucks couldn't muster enough offence. They scored only eight times in five games, which just happens to be the same amount they checked in with when the offence went dry in the seven-game final last spring.
The Kings deserve some of the credit for shutting down Vancouver's offence. But Los Angeles was a team that had difficulty scoring, too. But they found a way to advance to the second round for the first time since 2001. And, oh yeah, this just happens to be the 30th anniversary of the Miracle on Manchester, when the Kings stormed back to beat the Edmonton Oilers in a game in which they trailed 5-0 and then took the series.
But this was hardly a miracle from the Kings. The offensive struggles of the Canucks began way before the playoffs. This team experienced a decrease in production in the final six weeks of the season and that lack of goal-scoring prowess continued against the Kings.
The expression on Hamhuis' mug may as well been a look of astonishment, as in how did this season go so wrong.
"We had high expectations," Hamhuis said. "We thought we had a better team than last year. We had our sights set on getting back there.
"They really shut us down."
The Canucks became the fourth No. 1 seed to be upset by an eighth-seeded team since the 2004-05 NHL lockout. But upsets are in vogue this spring. Just ask Sidney Crosby and Pittsburgh Penguins. Just ask the New York Rangers, who are on the ropes in their series against the Ottawa Senators.
"It seems like parity is running wild," Schneider said. "That's no excuse for us. We had to step up and play better.
"We're definitely in shock. The odds were against us in coming back, but we had a belief.
"It hurts. We had high hopes. We let our fans down and we let ourselves down."
Now, how does Canucks general manager Mike Gillis make it up to the fans? What moves will he make?
Does he keep head coach Alain Vigneault in charge for a seventh season? Does he move Schneider or Roberto Luongo? Was this the last game in a Vancouver sweater for 37-year-old defenceman Sami Salo, an unrestricted free agent this summer?
The other pending unrestricted free agents include Aaron Rome, Andrew Ebbett, Aaron Volpatti, Byron Bitz, Sami Pahlsson and Steven Reinprecht in the minors.
These will be interesting days, weeks and months ahead for the Canucks. But for now, there is plenty of disbelief that the Canucks couldn't get out of the first round.
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