The return of all-star goaltender Roberto Luongo and addition of high-scoring Mats Sundin was supposed to turn the Vancouver Canucks into Stanley Cup contenders.
But at the rate they're going, the Canucks will be lucky to qualify for the playoffs.
Marc-Andre Bergeron's power-play goal at 1:52 of overtime lifted the visiting Minnesota Wild to a 4-3 win over Vancouver Saturday night in a heartbreaking loss for the struggling Canucks.
Ryan Kesler scored with 16 seconds left in regulation to send the game to overtime, but Bergeron bagged his second goal of the contest in the extra frame, beating Luongo with a wicked slapshot.
The Canucks, who have now dropped eight games in a row, have not won since earning a 4-2 decision over the Edmonton Oilers on Jan. 7. Playing before their fans hasn't been much of an advantage for the Canucks either — they've lost a team record nine straight on home ice after a shutout win against Ottawa on Dec. 28.
Luongo, Sundin struggling
Luongo had a solid outing in stopping 23 shots, but he dropped to 0-3-2 since returning to action after missing nearly two months with a groin injury. As for Sundin, the Swede has only two goals and an assist in nine games since signing a one-year deal with Vancouver last month.
Minnesota goalie Nicklas Backstrom looked far sharper than Luongo, making 37 saves.
The Canucks fell into early penalty trouble after they were called for consecutive minors. The Wild made them pay for their lack of discipline, with Mikko Koivu scoring on a backhander at 7:38.
Bergeron padded Minnesota's lead five minutes later, firing a slapshot by Luongo for his sixth goal of the campaign.
The Canucks looked as though the life had been kicked out of them after the Koivu goal, and they were booed off the ice as they headed to the locker-room for the first intermission.
"We're a team that likes to play with [emotion] — that's when we're at our best and obviously that penalty cost us a goal," Canucks winger Alexandre Burrows told Hockey Night in Canada after the first period.
Canucks get some life
Vancouver came out refreshed at the start of the second period, and capitalized on the man-advantage at 3:37 after Owen Nolan went to the penalty box on a hooking call. On the ensuing power play, Mattias Ohlund fed a perfect pass to a streaking Kesler who went hard to the net and scored with a backhander that hit Backstrom's pad and deflected off his skate and into the net.
The play went upstairs for review, but video relays showed Kesler did not kick the puck in.
Things went from bad to worse for Minnesota two minutes later when winger Cal Clutterbuck slammed Burrows from behind into the boards and drew a five-minute major and a game misconduct.
The Wild killed off the penalty and Pierre-Marc Bouchard nearly restored his team's two-goal advantage late in the period, but Luongo scrambled across his crease and made a highlight-reel save with his blocker to deny the Minnesota forward.
Wild defenceman Brent Burns said killing off the five-minute penalty gave the team an emotional lift.
"That was big — especially after they were starting to roll over us after they got that early goal. It was important for us to get some momentum back and I think we did that," Burns told HNIC.
Wild lose momentum
Whatever momentum the Wild had quickly evaporated with Alexander Edler's goal early in the third. Henrik Sedin won a faceoff draw to the right of Backstrom and Edler blasted a one-timer through traffic and past Backstrom at 3:03 to tie the game.
The Canucks continued to press and came achingly close to taking the lead when Sedin's shot from in close hit the post. Just 40 seconds later, Bouchard rushed the puck into the Vancouver zone and made a perfect cross-ice pass to Eric Belanger who wired a shot off the post and in.
Sitting on a 3-2 lead, Minnesota appeared to have the game in hand, but Kessler came to the rescue, scoring his second power-play goal at 19:44, banging in a rebound off a point shot.
Kesler's heroics were wiped out 52 seconds into the overtime period when Daniel Sedin was whistled for a hooking penalty, paving the way for Bergeron's power-play winner.