Looking to repeat as Stanley Cup champions and win their fourth title in seven years, the Chicago Blackhawks took a crucial step Sunday.
They're back in the playoffs.
Andrew Ladd scored the game winner with just over two minutes to play in the third period as the visitors salvaged a critical win while keeping the Canucks at the bottom of the Western Conference standings.
"It's frustrating," said Alex Burrows, who scored Vancouver's first goal. "You never want to lose that many games in a row. Right now it's frustrating because we know we're not going to get in. It's going to be a really long summer of working out and a lot of time in the gym. We have to use these next few weeks for the young guys to show what they got."
Jonathan Toews stickhandled into the Canucks zone on a two-on-one with Marian Hossa, but elected to drop a pass in the high slot to Ladd, who hammered home a one-timer for his 23rd goal of the season and sixth in 13 games with Chicago.
Ladd was coming off a three-point night against Calgary on Saturday in which he scored two goals and added an assist.
Blackhawks clinch playoff spot as late-season slide slows
With the win, the defending-champion Blackhawks officially clinched a playoff spot for the eighth straight year. With seven games left in the season, Vancouver is tied with Edmonton for last place in the conference with 67 points. The Oilers only have four games left on their schedule.
Chicago's Trevor van Riemsdyk had two assists for the visitors, while Tomas Fleischmann and Teuvo Teravainen also scored for the Blackhawks (44-25-7).
Sven Baertschi also had a goal for the Canucks (27-35-13) while Emerson Etem had a two-assist night.
Chicago earned back-to-back wins for the first time since Mar. 2, while Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling made 26 saves for his ninth victory of the season.
"We wanted to build on last night's win and just keep getting points," said Ladd. "It's still a dogfight in the standings and for position and these are the games you need to have and a lot of times they are tough. You are playing against a team with nothing to lose and a lot of young guys that are trying to prove something and it can go either way."
Canucks chase draft lottery
The Canucks haven't won since a 4-2 victory over Nashville Mar. 12. The only point they earned over their eight-game skid came in an overtime loss to the Predators last Thursday.
Baertschi evened the game 2-2 with just over five minutes left in the third period when he converted an Etem feed.
Teravainen had put Chicago ahead early in the third period when he finished a nifty passing play between Patrick Kane and van Riemsdyk, slamming home a quick one-timer from the back door.
Fleischmann opened the scoring for Chicago with his 14th goal of the season late in the first period before Burrows responded midway through the second period — scoring his first goal in 10 games.
Burrows' ninth goal of the season came at 11:29 when he took a bouncing pass from Linden Vey in the slot and snapped the puck past Darling on the blocker side.
"A lot of guys are playing really hard now," said Baertschi. "Overall, we got better as the game went on. Our structure is really good. They had some turnovers we took advantage of, (but) they are a really good team. We had to play hard against them."
Fleischmann opened the scoring with a quick wrister from the slot at 17:42 of the first. Taking a hard pass from van Riemsdyk, the Blackhawks winger sniped his offering through traffic and past the blocker of Ryan Miller, who finished with 29 saves.