The Canucks faced off against the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night. Tampa Bay came in winners of four of their last five games, fresh off a 7-4 track meet with the Calgary Flames. Any trepidation Canucks fans felt going into this one was justified; the Bolts are as advertised.
It took just one minute and twenty-six seconds for Tampa Bay to open the scoring. Anton Stralman floated a wrister on net that appeared to take two deflections. The second one by Chris Kunitz earned him credit on the goal.
Markstrom was busy early on as the Canucks struggled to deal with the puck possession and movement of Tampa’s attack. After making a stellar glove save under a minute earlier, Markstrom was beaten again to make 2-0. Sven Baertschi failed to clear the zone with a trio of Lightning players between him and the blueline. From there Kucherov picked up his second assist as he slipped the puck to Stamkos, who made a great pass to find Victor Hedman streaking down the middle of the ice. Hedman put the puck five-hole on Markstrom, who on one angle appeared to have the puck stopped but opened up giving up the goal.
The Canucks didn’t fold going down two early. They pushed back with chances of their own and several shifts in the offensive zone by the Horvat and Sedin lines.
With just under ten minutes left, Michael Del Zotto was called for interference after Alex Killorn chipped the puck past him. Del Zotto stepped in front of him and pushed him to the ice. The Canucks would manage to kill off the penalty, but the skill possessed by the Lightning was on full display as they snapped the puck around creating plenty of opportunities.
Despite being down 2-0 after twenty minutes, the Canucks had 67% of the expected goals at five-on-five and controlled 57.69% of shot attempts.
Tampa Bay picked up where they left off in the first creating an early scoring chance, while the Canucks countered five minutes in with a great chance set up by a drop pass by Brock Boeser to Troy Stecher. Stecher put a good shot on net where Sven Baertschi just missed getting control of the rebound as Boeser sat just to his left ready to fire it into the yawning cage if the pass came. Stecher continued his strong play as of late, was active and jumping in the play all night.
The periods only goal came with 4:13 left in the period. As Matthew Peca broke into the Canucks zone he backed off the Canucks defence and dropped the puck to Yanni Gourde who played catch with Mikhail Sergachev, Gourde blasted a one-timer high deep off the right wing, giving Tampa a 3-0 lead.
With five seconds left in the period, Vladislav Namestnikov was sent off for holding.
Starting on the powerplay, the Canucks wound up with a 5-3 advantage for a minute-fifty, as Anton Stralman sailed a clearing attempt from his own zone over the glass behind Jacob Markstrom.
The Canucks power play looked great. It was compiled of the usual suspects but in a different formation as Boeser lined up more like a traditional point-man alongside Alex Edler. The Canucks had great movement on the powerplay. They pounded the puck on net but ultimately didn’t score.
Steven Stamkos was called for cross-checking. As he battled Del Zotto in front of the Canucks net with Jacob Markstrom, Stamkos took a cross-check from Del Zotto. After taking an elbow from him earlier in the game, Stamkos got up and broke his stick across the Canucks resident DJ.
The power play would be short-lived, as just three seconds later Bo Horvat was called for tripping off the next face-off.
Down 3-0 and having their chances on the power play it would have been easy for the Canucks to fold. They didn’t. Brock Boeser, who had a strong game, broke out in the third and was all over the ice, setting up Stecher with another drop pass but no goal came of it.
With ten minutes left it was Stecher again, walking in, faking a shot in the slot feeding Vanek on the right wing. Vanek had Vasilevskiy fully committed hugging his post and wrapped it around. We had a game.
Less than five minutes later the Canucks got within one. Picking up the puck just outside his own blueline — this one was all Boeser. As he skated the puck all the way fending off three defenders and unloading his signature shot.
The Canucks continued to pour it on, and it was nearly Boeser again tying it up. But Chris Tanev had a tough go at keeping a puck in at the blueline, conceding a break-away to Cory Conacher. Tanev gave chase and just missed lifting Conacher’s stick; unfortunately, he didn’t miss his face. As he split Conacher open, he was called for a penalty shot and a minor penalty for the injury caused. Conacher scored on the penalty shot putting this one to bed.
- The Canucks won the expected goals battle on the night, at five-on-five they had 50.92%
- Jacob Markstrom gave up two goals on seven high danger shots.
- The Canucks didn’t score on any of their five high danger shots.
- Marsktom’s .857 save percentage was 6.2% below his expected 92%.
- Thomas Vanek had a game-high 0.51 individual expected goals.
- Troy Stecher had a great game and continued his run of good games recently. He’s been much more active off the rush and aggressive in the offensive zone. He looks more like the player Canucks fans remember from last year. Once again paired with Alex Edler, he’s playing more minutes and being relied upon by Travis Green. He picked up an assist against Tampa Bay.
- Tampa sits atop the league, and it’s easy to see why. They’re loaded with skill up front, and their puck control game is something to behold. Hedman is among the leagues very best on the blueline, while Stralman and Bolts rookie Mikhail Sergachev are standout in their own right. But this team lives and dies on the back of Andrei Vasilevskiy, his .930 save percentage is fourth among goalies with at least ten games played. His GSAA ( Goals Saves Above Average) of 21.78 is good for just over a half goal per game saved compared to league average.
- Michael Del Zotto’s struggles continued. Tonight he took a pair of ill-advised penalties. One a blatant interference call after Alex Killorn dumped the puck in and tried to skate past Del Zotto. The other a retaliatory elbow to the back of Steven Stamkos’ head after taking a hit from the Lightning’s superstar.
- For the second straight game, it was apparent that being physical has been a talking point for the club recently. Brandon Sutter, Jake Virtanen and Erik Gudbranson all laid noteworthy hits. The Canucks also engaged in a pair of scrums, something it feels like we haven’t seen in some time. Michael Del Zotto had a game-high nine hits, three times more than any other skater.