Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) celebrates his goal against the Vancouver Canucks with defenseman Zach Bogosian (24) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) celebrates his goal against the Vancouver Canucks with defenseman Zach Bogosian (24) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

THE MOJ: Another loss, another bucket full of reasons to be upset with the Canucks

Team continues to serve up reasons to criticize

Another Canuck loss – this time a 5-4 defeat in Tampa Bay on Thursday night – and plenty of things to get into.

To start things off, Vancouver’s $7.2 million dollar man took a seat in the press box as defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson was made a healthy scratch.

You don’t have to be an MIT grad to figure out that sitting the third-highest paid player on the team is an indictment on just how bad Ekman-Larsson has been.

The scary thing is that the 31-year-old Swede still has four years remaining on his contract after this season. If it’s this bad now, you have to wonder where his level of play will be in two or three-years time.

Then the whipping boy for Canucks fans – J.T. Miller – got criticized for his perceived lack of effort on the Lightning’s fourth goal of the game in which Brandon Hagel scored with 31 seconds remaining in the second period to give Tampa Bay a two-goal lead.

Tampa Bay’s Alex Killorn chased down a loose puck just between the top of the faceoff circles in the Vancouver zone and was covered by Canuck defenceman Quinn Hughes. His d-partner Ethan Bear, believing Hughes needed help, then committed to Killorn leaving the slot wide open for the trailer – in this instance Hagel – to score after receiving a cute backhand pass from Killorn.

It was another example of what Vancouver head coach Bruce Boudreau pointed out a short while ago – that you have to trust your teammate to get the job done.

Bear didn’t.

Most people would fault Bear for the breakdown in coverage in this case and rightfully so.

The problem that I have with Miller on the goal is that Hagel is behind him in the neutral zone and busts his butt to get in on the play. Unfortunately for the Canucks, Miller decides to coast and be a spectator.

Yes, fundamentally Bear is to blame as it was a 2v2 but Miller shouldn’t get a free pass as a little hustle might have prevented a goal.

Miller also had another “emotional display” on the bench which didn’t do him any favors with Canuck Nation but it is pretty interesting that Elias Pettersson can throw a stick or flip an iPad on the bench and not be subject to the same level of criticism as Miller.

Clearly there is a double-standard for those actions.

All of this overshadowed a pretty good performance from Miller in which he picked up a goal and an assist on the night.

What really disturbed me though is what occurred in the last minute of the game after a goal-mouth scramble in the Tampa Bay zone with Vancouver trailing 5-4.

Vancouver’s Connor Garland went fishing for the puck which was being covered by Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.

That didn’t go over well with Tampa Bay defenceman Mikhail Sergachev, who defended his netminder by giving Garland a two-hand shiver, and then in the ensuing scrum, sucker-punching Garland with an overhand right causing the Canuck forward to hit the ice.

This all occurred right in front of referee Kyle Rehman, who decided not to penalize Sergachev.

It also happened right in front of Vancouver captain Bo Horvat, who decided to do nothing. There was ZERO response from Horvat or any other Canuck for that matter.

It was a sad commentary on where this group is at when it comes to being a team and having each other’s back.

And I know what you’re thinking.

It’s a one-goal game and the Canucks could ill afford to take a penalty at this point.

Really?

I’m guessing Sergachev knew it was a one-goal game too but that didn’t stop him from doing what he did.

Even if it did cost the Lightning two points, he wasn’t going to allow his goaltender to be fair game.

In the long run, a response in that situation is way more valuable than two points.

Sergachev knows that.

The Canucks clearly do not.

Veteran B.C. sports personality Bob “the Moj” Marjanovich writes twice weekly for Black Press Media. And check out his weekly podcast every Monday at Today in B.C. or your local Black Press Media website.

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