The Vancouver Canucks we’re looking for a spark after two straight disappointing outings in Calgary and Carolina. Their opponent tonight happened to be one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, the Tampa Bay Lightning. After another disappointing outing from Jakob Markstrom, head coach Travis Green gave Anders Nilsson his first start of the season. Brendan Leipsic was the forward in the press box for this evening’s game, and it would be Tyler Motte drawing back into the lineup, on the top line no less. There were no changes on defense in this contest, so Hutton would remain and Del Zotto would be scratched for the 2nd consecutive game. It’d take everything the Canucks could give to get a win in the confines of Amalie Arena.
Another game that seemed to get off on the wrong foot for our boys down south, however it was only a minor penalty that’d be called against the team instead of an early deficit. Brock Boeser would slash an opposing Tampa player to give the Lightning an early power-play opportunity. The team would kill the penalty off, only to find Nikolay Goldobin in the sin bin immediately after Boeser’s minor would expire.
The Canucks would kill off the ensuing power-play and watch a rejuvenated Goldobin come out of the box, strip Mikhail Sergachev of the Lightning for a great chance, only to get robbed by Tampa starter Andrei Vasilevskiy.
A large majority of the 1st period would end up being Tampa pressing the Canucks, trying to break the wall in the Canucks net. It would take 17 minutes and 16 shots for the Lightning to finally get on the scoreboard. A mad scramble in front of the Canucks goal leads to Brayden Point picking up the 3rd chance opportunity and depositing the puck low glove side on Nilsson for the 1-0 lead.
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) October 12, 2018
The 1st period would end with 1 more save from Nilsson, who is the only reason this game was 1-0 heading into the 2nd period.
Right from the start of the period, the Canucks would take another penalty, this time it only took 24 seconds. Erik Gudbranson would get caught flat footed by the speed of another good rookie in Tampa forward Anthony Cirelli. Another Canucks penalty kill would keep Tampa off the score-sheet for the time being.
A couple minutes later, the young duo of Elias Pettersson and Goldobin would connect for a scoring chance only to be stopped by Vasilevskiy. Only a minute after the Canucks had their good scoring chance, the Lightning would see defenseman Victor Hedman come in on a breakaway after splitting the defense pairing of Troy Stecher and Derrick Pouliot. Stecher would take a minor penalty on the Hedman scoring chance, and for the fourth time in the game the Canucks would be short handed.
Again, the Canucks would kill off the penalty, and finally they’d get a power-play of their own. Tyler Motte would draw an interference minor behind the play to give the Canucks their best chance at tying up the game. The Canucks power-play would see a couple of good looks from Pettersson and Boeser, but ultimately no goal and the Canucks would still trail. Just like the previous half of the 2nd period there’d be another penalty right after, and it’d be Boeser heading back to the penalty box. Tampa would again fail to convert on the man advantage.
A few minutes later, Boeser would be taken down by defenseman Ryan McDonagh, but as he was falling would move the puck to Jay Beagle. Beagle would flip the puck over to Tim Schaller for a great chance, but alas he was stopped by the shoulder of Vasilevskiy. The Canucks would get their 2nd power-play opportunity of the period, and the top unit would get back to work.
With around 30 seconds remaining in the penalty, Markus Granlund would be held and taken down by Cirelli to put the Canucks on a 5 on 3, the best chance for either team in the period. Again, it was the penalty killers who would triumph, killing off both penalties and sending this game to the 3rd period with the Lightning still up 1-0. It’s worth mentioning that Anders Nilsson had to be fantastic through 2 periods, stopping 24 of 25 shots against up to this point in the game.
The 3rd got off to a better start than the first 2 periods for Vancouver, mainly because they didn’t find themselves short handed in the first 2 minutes. Play would flow naturally, with Boeser getting a nice chance on one end, then a few minutes later it’d be Alex Killorn for the Lightning with one of his own. No real opportunities for either side to get a new tally on the scoreboard until the 6 minute mark of the period, when the Lightning got called for 2 face-off violations. The theme of the night would stand however, and the Canucks would see themselves go 0 for 4 on the man advantage.
Later in the 3rd, Anders Nilsson would again have to stand tall, as Mathieu Joseph would create a great scoring chance. This prompted yet another great save by a goaltender who had been doing all he could to give the Canucks a chance to tie this hockey game. 3 minutes later, his work would be rewarded. After Pettersson tried dangling his way through Tampa and almost burying one on the near side on Vasilevskiy, Pettersson would get the puck on the half wall and fire a beautiful pass across to Troy Stecher. Stecher would give Pouliot the puck, and Pouliot would attempt to fire a shot on goal. Pettersson would skate through the middle, have the puck deflect off of him and in for his 4th goal in his 4th NHL game, and push his point streak to start his career while tying the game up at 1.
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) October 12, 2018
A little over a minute later, all of Canuck nation would be able to breathe a sigh of relief. After a couple decent chances from the Horvat line, the puck would squirt to Boeser on the far side. Boeser wound up and clapped a shot right past Vasilevskiy to get the monkey off his back and give the Canucks a 2-1 lead in the 3rd
— Vanessa Jang (@vanessajang) October 12, 2018
The Lightning would press for the equalizer but ultimately weren’t able to get it done. The Canucks would get 2 empty net goals in the last 2 minutes of this hockey game from Jake Virtanen and Markus Granlund to seal the deal.
Coming into this one tonight, it was noted that every player would have to play a strong hockey game, and that’s just what happened tonight. In particular, there are a couple of notable performances to talk about.
After 2 tough games to start this road trip, the Canucks came out and played a hard nosed game. They had a real rough start, but were able to adjust in the 2nd period, and break through in the 3rd. I was hard on the boys after their game in Carolina, but tonight there were a few key factors in the Canucks grabbing a win in Southern Florida.
Anders Nilsson: Absolutely brilliant tonight. Not just above average or good, but a fantastic performance from a guy who only won 1 of his final 16 starts last year. He didn’t have a good preseason, but he came in tonight and put on a show. 16 saves on 17 shots in the 1st period kept the Canucks in it, and a handful of key saves late preserved the lead. After Jakob Markstrom’s 2 games to start the road trip, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nilsson start again on Saturday.
Canucks Penalty Kill Units: There was a lot of flak about the Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel, and Tim Schaller signings, and for good reason. However, games like tonight are the very reason Jim Benning went out and acquired these 3 bottom 6 forwards. Beagle, Schaller, and the rest of the Canucks penalty killers went 5 for 5 tonight in penalty kill opportunities. If you remove the one bad game in Calgary where they gave up 3 power-play goals, the team has been flawless on the penalty kill. No, I’m not going on record saying the Beagle or Roussel contracts are actually good contracts, however the Canucks penalty kill is a large reason why they’re 2-2 to start the year. Beagle and Schaller are a huge part of the penalty kill that played a huge part in the Canucks coming out with a win.
Boeser + Pettersson: The 2 most offensively gifted players on this team finally scored in the same game, and for Boeser the first time this season. Pettersson has come out of the gate scorching hot, with 4 goals and 7 points in his first 4 games. Pettersson also now holds the record among all Swedish forwards with his 7 points in 4 games. Now, if tonight is an indication that Boeser is getting out of his mini slump and will be the scoring threat he was last year; this team has the potential to score a boatload of goals. They may not win too many games this year but they’ll be scoring plenty of goals, and if I’m being honest, that might work out best for everyone involved.