On the heels of Tuesday nights thrilling overtime victory against Colorado, Tsawassen native Brent Seabrook and the Chicago Blackhawks were in town Thursday night.
The Canucks had their legs early in this one, and they needed them. The first whistle of the period didn’t come until 5:55 into the game.
Erik Gudbranson returned to the line up after making headlines with his comments about the lack of pushback from the Canucks in last week’s LA game, after Trevor Lewis sent Brock Boeser head first into the boards. The Canucks looked like a team that had been called out physically, and clearly made a point of playing the body tonight. After twenty the hits were 9-3 in favour of Vancouver, with several being of the noteworthy variety.
rivalry back on pic.twitter.com/cqINPqaGlj
— Jason Botchford (@botchford) February 2, 2018
The teams would trade penalties, with both units getting their looks. However, the game remained scoreless until Nick Schmaltz broke the deadlock with 4:45 left in the first. Taking the feed from Brandon Saad just inside the blueline, Schmaltz had a step on the Canucks defence and cut to the net, where he pulled the puck to his backhand and around Markstrom to open the scoring.
The Canucks would start the second period without Sam Gagner who appeared to injure himself on an open-ice hit he made in the first period. Canucks head coach Travis Green was forced to put the lines in a blender, and we saw a variety of combinations for the rest of the night.
After killing off a Troy Stecher hooking penalty, Brendan Gaunce (still on the ice from the PK) broke in on a 2-on-1 with Bo Horvat. Gaunce was keeping all the way and snapped a shot five-hole on Anton Forsberg tying the game at one.
"I got this Bo…" – Gaunce, moments before a snipe 🔥 pic.twitter.com/8T8S5foh1y
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) February 2, 2018
After the Canucks tied it up, the pace picked up. Chicago applied pressure trying to get back the lead but it would be the Canucks who would strike next. Stecher wristed a puck on net, doing a good job of finding a lane through traffic and Horvat tipped the puck perfectly beating Forsberg five-hole.
— Grady Sas (@GradySas) February 2, 2018
Three minutes into the third it would be the Canucks again, going up by a score of 3-1. Blackhawks centre Artem Anisimov broke his stick along the boards in the Chicago zone and went directly to the bench to fetch another. This left the Blackhawks outnumbered in their own end. Jake Virtanen picked up a loose puck in the high slot, he turned and fired the puck on net where Daniel Sedin was parked in front of Forsberg, who was once again beat five-hole as Daniel Sedin deflected the Virtanen shot.
13th goal of the season. Might as well jump! pic.twitter.com/NY8QaG8Q9c
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) February 2, 2018
Chicago didn’t register a shot until the twelve-minute mark of the third period. From there it was all hands on deck as the Blackhawks pushed the pace trying to come back as they chase a playoff spot. After Markstrom made a spectacular save on a bang-bang play off Alex DeBrincat in the slot, Chris Tanev failed to clear the puck. Off the turnover it would be DeBrincat again, this time walking in and ripping a puck over Markstrom high glove bringing Chicago within one.
The Canucks didn’t sit back and defend a one-goal lead. They forced the issue and answered DeBrincats goal with chances of their own by the Sedin’s with Jake Virtanen, as well as the Horvat line which created a mad scramble in the Chicago crease.
The Blackhawks opportunity to tie the game up came with 7:21 left as Virtanen reached in on Patrick Kane, who had a head of steam carrying the puck through the neutral zone. Virtanen was called for the trip.
Markstrom stood tall for the Canucks on the penalty kill and would continue to fend off the pressing Blackhawks as the teams traded chances late. It would once again be the Canucks getting the better of the exchange, Gaunce skated the puck out of his end and passed to Loui Eriksson on the right side. Gaunce followed up the play and went to the net where he was rewarded as Loui Eriksson fed the puck to the front for Gaunce to chip in. It was the first multi-goal game of Gaunce’s career. It has to be a great feeling for Gaunce who’s up to four on the year after a 95 game goal drought.
Gaunce with his 2nd goal of the game, gotta lock that guy up long term now before he gets too expensive pic.twitter.com/fOqkOM5FaA
— Wyatt Arndt (@TheStanchion) February 2, 2018
The Blackhawks pulled their goalie down by two with 2:45 left to play. Gaunce had a couple chances at the hat-trick but ultimately would settle for two. The Canucks held on to win by a score of four-to-two.
- After having just 29.31% of the five-on-five expected goals in the first period, the Canucks rebounded nicely. They finished the night at 55.79%
- The Canucks scored four goals, on eight high danger shot attempts.
- Jacob Markstrom gave up one goal on five high danger shots.
- Michael Del Zotto led the Canucks with seven shot attempts, while Bo Horvat had four shots on net.
- Markus Granlund had a team-best 78.57 Corsi-for percentage.
- Erik Gudbranson made his return to lineup; he hasn’t played since being hurt in a game against Edmonton on January 20th.
- Since losing Cory Crawford to post-concussion like symptoms on December 23rd, the Blackhawks record is 7-5-2
- With a healthy group of forwards, Nic Dowd was a healthy scratch for the second straight game. Green likes to match up with a defensive centre and with Brandon Sutter back in the line up he’s taken over that role from Dowd.
- Over the past 10 games, Alexander Edler leads the Canucks in ice-time, is tied for the team lead in points, and sits second on the team in shots and shot attempts. Edler’s strong play continued against Chicago, not only picking up another point but he was physical and engaged all game.