Desperation and urgency were palpable as the Vancouver Canucks faced the New York Rangers Tuesday night. But then you walked past the whimpering ticket scalpers and went inside Rogers Arena, where the strongest sense was one of resignation.

It has been a long time since the Canucks were in this position, playing out their final games hopelessly – if not quite yet mathematically – short of the National Hockey League playoffs.

In both 2008 and 2006, the only years since Y2K the Canucks failed to make the Stanley Cup tournament, the team fell out of a playoff position at the end. Their games meant something until the final days of the season.

But this year is worse: with the Dallas Stars winning 5-0 earlier Tuesday in Washington, the Canucks were six points out of a playoff spot with six games to go and needing to catch not one team but two, both of them holding games in-hand. Then they lost 3-1 to the Rangers.

There was an inevitability about the outcome even as the first puck was dropped.

“We've never really been in this situation before, and it's not where we want to be,” Canuck defenceman Alex Edler said amid a despondent dressing room. “There have been a lot of losses; it's been tough. We're going to battle to the end but we need a lot of help here.”

There entire labour force of China couldn't help enough to get the Canucks into the playoffs.

The Phoenix Coyotes, technically ninth in the Western Conference but tied with Dallas on points, play two more games before Saturday, when the Canucks play next against the Los Angeles Kings. By then, Vancouver could be 10 points out with five games to go.