Oh, how we long for those carefree spring days when the only medical intrigue surrounded goalie Cory Schneider and the Vancouver Canucks didn't trail anyone in the playoffs. Seems like only yesterday.

Technically, it's not possible to lose a seven-game National Hockey League series on opening night, but it was difficult for Canuck fans to leave Wednesday's game at Rogers Arena with much to feel optimistic about.

Yes, some of the gloom was a reflection of the accumulated baggage from playoff failures, and a here-we-go-again foreboding that yet another Stanley Cup tournament will be short and disappointing in Vancouver.

And it's more than just the San Jose Sharks pouring in the final three goals to overcome a late second-period deficit and win 3-1, lifting “home-ice advantage” from the Canucks. The Sharks are 17-2-5 this season in San Jose, and now the Canucks will have to win at least once in the Silicon Valley if they hope to make the second round.

Other than an inspired night by goalie Roberto Luongo, filling in while Schneider recovers from an undisclosed injury, there wasn't much spark to the Canucks.

And the player most capable of providing it appeared to labour through some shifts after conspicuously no-showing for the morning skate.

For Pete's sake, is Ryan Kesler hurt again?

“I was good,” Kesler insisted. “I was good to play. Game 2, we'll all be better.”

Kesler was the only Canuck who didn't take the morning skate.

Canuck coach Alain Vigneault told reporters it was optional.

“We've got him locked up in the back and we're feeding him raw meat,” Vigneault joked in the morning. “The beast will be ready tonight. It was an optional. That's the player's call.”

But why would Kesler, who played only 17 games this season due to injuries and told reporters on Tuesday how fresh he felt after the extra time off, be the only Canuck to skip a morning skate before the first game of the playoffs?

“I thought it was the best option to prepare me to have enough energy for the night,” Kesler explained post-game.

After logging just 3:05 of even-strength ice time in the first period (out of 16:21 of five-on-five play), Kesler eventually finished with a hefty 21:33 of playing time – easily the most among Canuck forwards. But it was still a quiet night for him. He registered two shots, one hit, went 12-13 on faceoffs and finished minus-one.

“It's disappointing going into the third period in your own building being tied and losing like that,” Kesler said. “We need to take care of our third period better than that.”