After an early two-goal lead, the Ontario Reign lost for the second straight night in Abbotsford, falling 5-4 to the Canucks.
For the first time this season, the Ontario Reign have lost back-to-back games as they lost to the Abbotsford Canucks 5-4 on Wednesday night. Sheldon Dries completed his hat-trick with a great individual effort to give the Canucks the 5-4 lead with 3:49 remaining in the game.
As they did on Tuesday, Ontario jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead as Tyler Madden scored just 1:05 into the game. They’d extend the lead to 2-0 on a Martin Frk power-play goal in what was a very strong start for the Reign. From about the midway point of the first period, though, the Reign were on their heels most of the night.
Abbotsford tied things up with two goals late in the opening period from Dries and Sheldon Rempal.
The Canucks completely controlled the second period – save for a Samuel Fagemo power-play goal. They out-shot the Reign 18-6 and out-attempted them 27-13 in the middle frame. The Fagemo goal did give Ontario the 3-2 lead, but an Austin Wagner major penalty late in the period, followed by a delay-of-game penalty by Madden, gave the Canucks a two-man advantage that Dries cashed in on to tie the game.
The Reign have now lost three of their last four games and are now 11-4-0-1 on the season. The Canucks got back to .500, now sitting at 6-6-2-1.
Three things that stood out:
1. Vilardi Impresses Again
The decision to send Vilardi to Ontario is paying dividends for the young center-turned-winger. He now has two goals and two assists in his four games with the Reign, including a goal and an assist on Wednesday. Since joining the team, he has been Ontario’s best forward, particularly these two games against Abbotsford. The Kingston, ON native again led the team in shots on goal (4), and he showed very nice patience with the puck in tight on his goal:
— Eric (@kingsgifs2) December 2, 2021
I’m not sure how bold of a statement this will be, but I’ll go ahead and make it anyways: Gabe Vilardi will finish the season in LA’s top-six, and it should happen sooner than later. His talent has never been in question. While he’s struggled to adapt to the center position at the NHL level, he was always dangerous in the offensive zone. This move to Ontario to play the wing was a very good decision by the Kings. Assuming he continues to play well, he’s arguably a better option to fill a top-six role than most in the current Los Angeles lineup.
2. Another game with three goals allowed
Early in the season, goaltending was one of the many strengths for the Reign. Through the first eight games, only once did they allow three goals. In the eight games since – every one of them has seen at least three pucks in the Ontario net. Goals allowed certainly don’t fall solely on the goaltenders, but if we were giving them credit early in the season for their strong play (deservedly so), it would only seem fair to at least look in that direction if things are not going as well.
In this one, it was Garret Sparks allowing five goals. This is now his fifth straight game of three goals or more allowed in a row. That said, he did make 35 saves tonight, and the lone goal he allowed in the second period was on a 5-on-3 Canucks’ power play. He was under siege for the majority of that period.
With how strong the offense is, the goaltending doesn’t need to be among the league’s best, and if we’re being honest, in these eight straight games of three or more goals allowed, the Reign have won half of them. It does, though, put added pressure on the offense to score a bundle of goals every night. In games where the power-play isn’t clicking, that’s asking a lot.
I’ve talked quite a bit about the slow starts this season from Ontario – that was not the case on Wednesday. They were all over Abbotsford early and jumped out to the 2-0 lead. It was unfortunate to see them come out of that period tied at two, though. It seemed as if they took their foot off the gas after taking the 2-0 lead. Almost as soon as that happened, they were chasing the rest of the game. Even with the first-period edge in shot attempts, they were second best through most of the night in that department:
|at Abbotsford||Shot Attempts For||Shot Attempts Against||CORSI||CF%|
|All Strengths HD||19||23||-4||45.24%|
Though most of the damage was done in the second, they were held without a 5-on-5 shot on goal for nearly half of the third period as well.
Ontario will continue their road trip with a game at Bakersfield on Saturday evening.