A mere two nights ago, the Canucks took heady advantage of a severely underperforming Chicago Blackhawks roster, coming out of the gate after the holiday break with a fun, goal-filled 5-2 win to shake off the rust.
The good times can only last so long, though; despite some good moments here and there from the Vancouver roster, Saturday night’s game was a nice reminder of why some teams are guaranteed to make the playoffs (and others are, well, the Vancouver Canucks).
Final score: Los Angeles Kings 4, Vancouver Canucks 3.
I know everyone loves when I kick things off complaining about an early-game goal allowed by Jacob Markstrom, but I’m sorry to disappoint – this time, he was absolutely stellar to start off the game, making eight stops in the first 13 minutes of play alone.
The Canucks, rather, were the ones to get on the board first, with Troy Stetcher capitalizing on a sharp-angle short-side shot against Jonathan Quick just four minutes in.
The team would let their foot off the gas considerably after that, getting outshot 5-0 over the next stretch of play before Tyler Toffoli managed to even things up with a goal of his own.
The Canucks would get walked by Adrian Kempe, who juggled the puck efficiently around Michael Del Zotto for a quick, short pass to Marian Gaborik (who seems to have forgotten that he’s supposed to be bad now).
Gaborik would then feed a short, quick dish to Toffoli, who neatly tapped the puck in on Markstrom’s left side – and although there was some question as to whether or not Gaborik interfered with Markstrom when the two made contact just ahead of the pass, the goal stood.
The Kings would then pull ahead with a power-play tally just a minute later, giving Gaborik his second point of the night when he tipped in a quick shot from the outside by Trevor Lewis to put his team up by a goal heading into the second.
Most of the second period was largely uneventful, save for this wonderful open-ice hit by Ben Hutton:
Oh snap, someone showed Hutton where the hit button is pic.twitter.com/AmoRGnKULL
— Wyatt Arndt (@TheStanchion) December 31, 2017
Hutton wasn’t quite as bad as his defensive partner on the night, but he certainly didn’t have an amazing showing. Still, gotta love him managing to truck Dustin Brown, who isn’t exactly the lightest player to knock down.
The Canucks would manage to tie things up by the end of the period, when Nikolay Goldobin made Drew Doughty look like one of those poor Danish kids from the Team Canada game earlier today before scoring his second goal of the season.
Although the Canucks would draw the only penalty of the period (and the last of the game) not long after that, they’d manage to kill off the two minutes and head into the second intermission neck-in-neck with their divisional rivals.
Revenge is sweet, as Nic Dowd figured out at the start of the third; he’d pull the Canucks ahead by a goal just :41 seconds into the final frame, setting up perfectly in front of the net for a centering pass from Granlund.
Alec Martinez would pinch towards Granlund, and Quick committed heels-out on the assumption that he would take the shot; instead, Dowd provided a perfect passing option that left Quick stranded for a wide-open net goal.
NICK DOWD SCORES TO GIVE THE CANUCKS THE 3-2 LEAD! pic.twitter.com/u6jjzyu68r
— NHL Daily 365 (@NHLDaily365) December 31, 2017
The team wouldn’t manage to hold on to their lead, though, relinquishing two more goals before regulation ended. Kyle Clifford would get his first of the season on a wacky rebound bouncing puck, then Doughty would score the final goal of the game (off of his own rebound on a blocked shot) to have the ultimate last word.
One of the things that the Los Angeles Kings have been Very Good At for quite a while now is dominating play when they’re down and out. That certainly proved to be the case after Vancouver’s first goal of the night; not only did the Canucks completely let their foot off the gas after Stetcher’s tally, the Kings completely controlled play until finally scoring a goal of their own about eight minutes later.
We can also joke as much as we want about Doughty getting schooled by Goldobin, but he managed to finish the game with a 68 Corsi For % at even strength despite logging just 35 percent of his starts in the offensive zone. Doesn’t matter if you think Drew Doughty is overhyped or not – he’s still very, very good.
- It’s never fun to walk away from a game with four or more goals against and a sub-.900 save percentage for your goaltender, and Jacob Markstrom definitely didn’t play his best hockey of the year in Saturday’s game. Some small solace, though; while Markstrom allowed four goals on 36 shots, Quick didn’t exactly have a stellar night, himself. The Pacific Division’s most overhyped in-net presence walked away from the game with three goals against on just 25 chances, good for a .880 save percentage and his first human game in over two weeks. Quick is good for either the best statistics in the league or replacement-level performances, and just a few more shots against may have turned this game quickly in Vancouver’s favor.
- I want to spend a quick minute acknowledging just how good Goldobin’s goal was. Breaking Doughty’s ankles was nice enough in it’s own right, but the way he managed to pull Quick off center in his crease before firing a quick backhand shot on the now-open net was a thing of beauty. It’s the kind of move that, while I don’t necessarily expect to see it all the time from him, you can really appreciate seeing from the team’s secondary scoring corps in a game like that. It makes me think back to when Quick talked about Alex Ovechkin once; he said the hardest goals to predict are the ones that seem like the shooter has floated too far to have a good shot on net. Clearly.
- I’m sure I have more to say, but now I can’t stop watching that Goldobin goal. So I think I’ll leave it on that note.