Friday night saw the Canucks make their first visit to Las Vegas, facing off against Luca Sbisa and the Golden Knights.
Anders Nilsson got the start in goal, and Philip Holm made his NHL debut.
It didn’t take long for the high scoring Knights to get on the boards, two minutes and twenty-eight seconds to be exact. Anders Nilsson couldn’t handle Deryk Engelland’s point shot, bouncing off his glove hand. Tomas Hyka chipped the puck through Nilsson, Holm was able to tie up Cody Eakin in the crease but was helpless to prevent Hyka who snuck around the net. It was Tomas Hyka’s first NHL goal.
Jake Virtanen had a very active first period, he nearly had a pair of great chances from the slot but just fanned on both. Shortly after that, using his speed off the rush Virtanen skated in on Marc-Andre Fleury. As Fleury laid out to make the poke check, he tripped up Virtanen and was called for a tripping minor.
The Canucks failed to capitalize on the penalty, just a couple minutes later tied the game up. Sam Gagner made a great play to force a turnover in the neutral zone and broke in 2-on-1 with Sven Baertschi. The only thing better than Gagner’s steal on the play was his pass. He floated a perfect saucer pass across the ice to Sven Baertschi who made it look easy depositing the puck behind Fleury.
Just over two minutes later, the Canucks took the lead. Henrik played the puck out front to Daniel from behind the net, with the puck in his feet Daniel kicked it up to himself. As he came across the front of the net, he rang a backhand shot off the post. With Fleury down and out, Thomas Vanek snuck in from the high slot, picked up the loose puck and fired into the open net.
With 5:21 left in the period the back and forth continued. Working the puck down low to Rielly Smith, William Karlsson found himself left all alone at the right faceoff dot. Smith made a nice back pass out front to set up Karlsson, who beat Anders Nilsson high short side.
There was some blame going around on Twitter for this one, to both Nikolay Goldobin whose not even in the frame for some reason, and also to Erik Gudbranson. Tho Gudbranson has been on the ice for a troubling amount of goals against lately, pinning this one on him is unfair.
He has to respect the wrap around and follow Smith to the other side of the ice. In my opinion, both Horvat and Edler are guilty to varying degrees on this one. Edler needs to pick up the man going to the net as Gudbranson follows the cycle. But on the reverse angle, it’s clear Horvat, is all alone in front and needed to pinch off the lane Karlsson had to the net.
Five minutes into the second it was Virtanen coming close again. After dragging the puck around a Vegas defender, Virtanen nearly caught Fleury on a backhand wrap around.
45 seconds later the puck was in the Canucks net, Jonathan Marchessault found a steaking Karlsson for his second of the game.
With just 1:02 left to play in the second, the Golden Knights added another to make it 4-2. With their team speed on full display Friday night, Tomas Nosek scored his 7th of the year flying down the left wing.
It’s hard to call any single goal Anders Nilsson gave up on the night absolutely terrible. But at some point tonight, the Canucks needed a save. With Nilsson unable to give it to them, Coach Travis Green turned to Jacob Markstrom to start the third period.
The Canucks made a game of it in third, with Tomas Nosek in the box for tackling Daniel Sedin in the crease, the power play came to life.
Off the won face-off, Alex Edler and Daniel Sedin played a quick game of give-and-go which ended with Daniel scoring his 16th of the year. Besting his total of 15 from last season in twenty-two fewer games.
Just inside the ten-minute mark came the Canucks best chance to tie the game up. Bo Horvat took a nifty pass from Sven Baertschi in the slot, and tho he couldn’t get a great shot off, the aftermath resulted in a fire drill taking place in the slot. In the mad scramble, Brock Boeser got a shot off, but after making the first save a diving Fleury robbed Boeser off his own rebound.
The final nail in the coffin came with 1:51 left, with the goalie out, Brock Boeser banked a pass off the wall back to Troy Stecher at the point. Unfortunately for Boeser’s North Dakota teammate, the puck skipped on Stecher and headed for the Canucks net. The own goal wound up being credited to David Perron.
Final score 5-3. Hopefully, the Canucks can leave this one in Vegas and be ready for Sunday, and a date with the last place Arizona Coyotes.
- At 5v5 the Canucks had just under 43% of the expected goals.
- Boeser, Horvat and Virtanen all had a team-leading five shots on goal, Boeser had a game-high eight shot attempts.
- Anders Nilsson .800 save percentage was 10.5% below expected, and had a -2.62 GSAA (Goals Saved Above Average)
- Jake Virtanen was easily the Canucks most noticeable skater on the night. Tied with a team-high five shots on goal, Virtanen had his feet moving all night using his speed to give the Knights problems.
- With five tonight the Golden Knights continue to pile up the goals, sitting second in the league coming into the game at 3.45.
- The Canucks best lines on the night were the “kids” along with Sam Gagner. The units were mixed and matched with both sets of wingers switching lines throughout the game. Nikolay Goldobin is still a work in progress as is Jake Virtanen but both have shown flashes recently.
- The Edler/Gudbranson experiment has taken a hard left turn. Gudbranson has been on the ice for 8 of the Canucks last nine goals against, with Edler also being on the ice for the majority of them. The Canucks have holes up and down the lineup, especially on defence, and with Chris Tanev out with a leg fracture the problem has only been magnified. There’s plenty of blame to go around, but when you’re paid and being played like the top pairing, expectations are justifiably high.
- With the Canucks making their first visit to Las Vegas, many Canucks fans made the trip down. The building was lively, and for most of the night, those who got away from the snow appeared to enjoy seeing some hockey in the desert.