That’s right, a Vancouver legend, Jared McCann, returns for his third time to Rogers Arena since that fateful trade. Josh Leivo returned from the IR for the Sunday afternoon tilt, sliding in on the fourth line with Goldobin on the LW and Granlund at C. Oh and, as you read in our pregame thread, the all-time winningest goalie for both squads, Roberto Luongo, returned to Vancouver for what is likely his last start at Rogers.
Vancouver hit the ice coming off a brutal 4-3 loss at the hands of Arizona in the desert. There was a dubious non-call when Nick Cousins interfered with Markstrom as a puck trickled through or the preceding trip of Goldobin just prior, take your pick. But those were in the second period and the most you could say about the effort from Vancouver is that the team battled back after every time they let Arizona take the lead. That is, until Panik finished things off in sudden-death OT.
McCann would get the first opportunity of the game for either side. One minute and twenty-five seconds into the game, he got a sweet feed from Frank Vatrano who was battling on the boards. McCann was right on the doorstep and tried to shove the puck in low, but Markstrom, who entered the game winless in his last three, stuffed him with the right leg. This created a beauty of an opportunity on the counter, which Roussel was unable to convert.
This prime-location shot would be the most dangerous opportunity Florida would have in the first, as the ice slowly tilted further and further in the Canucks’ favour.
With 13:30 to play, Yandle inexplicably cleared the puck towards his own net and bounced a puck right off Luongo’s leg pad straight to a streaking Boeser. Last-year’s rookie sensation went glove hand and was robbed by Luongo, who was drafted just months after Boeser was born. Yandle would again fail to clear the puck 35 seconds later. Boeser interrupted the clearing attempt and fed the puck to Horvat in the slot, but he fired high.
Last time these two teams faced off in Miami, Vancouver walked away with a 3-2 and a concussion to their freshman phenom who got thrown down by Mike Matheson. The Florida D-man would be the center of attention for Roussel, Beagle, et al., which unfortunately led to Virtanen taking a roughing penalty with 10:34 to go. The home fans weren’t particularly happy with their guy being the only player to get a penalty coming out of the scrum, but it was much ado about nothing as Florida was unable to mount any serious attack on the power play. Their best opportunity was spoiled when McCann took out Edler at the blue line.
Enter the Canucks power play.
They opened up the man advantage with a Baertschi-Horvat 2-on-1. On their next opportunity, Edler would fire one low to the front with Boeser crashing, but the puck trickled away from the winger. Edler would follow with with another point shot, this time into Luongo’s chest protector. The puck would drop in front for another good opportunity, but Horvat was unable to get the deflection or capitalize on the rebound. The second unit, featuring the returning Leivo, failed to generate any momentum.
Boeser, Horvat, and Baertschi had a gorgeous 3-on-1 with just under three minutes remaining. Boeser elected to keep it and fired the puck off Luongo’s mask. The dazed goaltender was able to cover the puck as his defending players wiped out the other two Canucks.
— Sportsnet 650 (@Sportsnet650) January 14, 2019
In events that effected neither team, human punching bag on skates Micheal Haley squared off with Gudbranson. I’d give a slight edge in calling this one for Gudbranson who got an elbow in during the scrap as well.
— Sportsnet 650 (@Sportsnet650) January 14, 2019
It would turn out that fight would put the Canucks in a bit of a sticky situation, as Tanev would head off thirty seconds into the second. With Gudbranson still in the box, Vancouver was down to one right-handed defenseman. Pouliot would flip to his off hand for a bit to help fill the gap.
Florida got caught making an awful change and took a too-many-men penalty with sixteen minutes remaining in the second. The ailing power play sought to pick up where they left off in the first, but had trouble getting set up. It was too-little, too-late when the second unit finally got things set up with 0:25 remaining on the power play. Twenty seconds of sustained zone time yielded zero shots from this unit and the Canucks special teams yet again failed to capitalize.
Florida finally registered their first shot of the period as McCann lobbed a puck at Markstrom from what was essentially the blue line. The Panthers hadn’t mounted any real resistance to the Canucks, but as has happened often times this season, the Canucks let their competition hang around.
Luongo made a nice glove save on an Eriksson shot, but that was one and done. With 11:20 to go, Stecher got a puck into the high slot and off the goaltender to Horvat who couldn’t put it away and so half way through the game, despite doubling the road team up in shots, the Canucks were tied with the Panthers in what could have been any body’s game.
Gone are the days of a dynamic Florida offense. As we saw with the Barkov and Huberdeau injuries in years past, this team seems to have trouble balancing itself with injured players, this time missing second-line center Vincent Trochek. This was a game waiting to be taken and yet the Canucks seemed unable to really take control from the road team playing way no identity.
And finally, a turn for the better.
After winning a face-off, Bogdan Kiselevich made a lazy pass that trickled out of the zone to Mike Hoffman. The former Senator brought the puck back into his own zone and opted to attempt to hoist the puck back through the middle. Loui Eriksson showed off some good hand-eye coordination and batted the puck out of the air. He drove the net and circled around, the veteran waiting and waiting for his shot when finally he was able to tuck it behind Luongo, who had just run out of rotational momentum. It was his first point and goal since scoring in a 5-1 drubbing of the St. Louis Blues in late December, a stretch of nine games.
— J.D. Burke (@JDylanBurke) January 14, 2019
Some highlights as the period wound down:
- In a sequence causing horrible flashbacks for most Canucks fans to Boeser’s season-ending injury, Hutton was checked into an open door on the bench by Nate Bjugstad, but he emerged relatively unscathed.
- Virtanen would have a second scoring chance streaking down the right side. The first was saved by Luongo, the second was fired into the side of the net.
- A failed Micheal Haley drop pass led to a shot just off the post for Josh Leivo
- The rebound found its way to Markus Granlund, but Luongo made yet another glove save. This solicited a bevy of Luuuuuu‘s from the crowd.
- Tyler Motte was robbed by a quick whistle after he nearly snuck one past the Florida goaltender
While the Canucks were leading by a considerable margin in even-strength expected goals heading into the final period, they led by only one on the score board.
Thankfully for the Canucks, it was a busy third period.
Not so thankfully, it started with a great save from Markstrom on Nick Bjugstad and a (sick) deflating goal from Frank Vatrano. Just when you thought the home team was getting read to pull away, they let a flailing Florida team tie it up in the third. If the Canucks want to consider themselves a potential playoff team, efforts like this won’t do. A better team would have capitalized on the solid play of their goaltender, as Luongo had put up a dandy to this point.
Vancouver was lucky that Florida is, in fact, not a better team.
The top line rallied for a couple good opportunities after the goal, including a kneeling one timer that just missed Boeser’s stick. It wouldn’t be the forward pair of Horvat and Boeser that has been labouring since Pettersson went on the IR that helped the Canucks go on top, rather the D-pair blender (see below) created a Stecher-Hutton tandem that gave the home team the lead. Stecher fired low into Luongo’s pillows, Lu kicked it out to the far side to a waiting Hutton, who buried it in a wide open net.
The second goal created some significant pushback from the Panthers, who finally decided . The Canucks held on by a thread with this one goal lead until the 17:40 mark. With the offensive zone face-off, Boughner pulled Luongo. The Panthers won the face-off, but Eriksson made a great read and broke up a pass. He then tapped the puck up the ice, away from retreating Panthers players, to Boeser moving up the wing. Boeser fired it into the empty net to stretch the lead to 3-1.
The Panthers and Canucks then traded shots off the post, with Virtanen notably mis-firing on an empty net.
Eriksson found Beagle for yet another empty-netter. The Panthers won a board battle deep, but were unable to clear as Eriksson made another good read. He flipped the puck over to Beagle, who managed to not Virtanen it.
Markus Granlund wrapped up the scoring as Motte walked through a number of Panthers before feeding the puck over to Granlund. Florida’s defense watched Granlund skate untouched to roughly the same spot Eriksson scored from and he fired one over Luongo’s shoulder.
Don’t let the score deceive you, this wasn’t a 5-1 game.
Markstrom was good when he needed to be. He didn’t see significant pressure until the third period, but he allowed the Canucks to hold onto their slim lead for long stretches both at 1-0 and 2-1. With his 18th win of the year he moves one closer to his career high of 23 set last season, that he’s likely to eclipse in the next month or so. He nearly got caught wandering twice, and nearly potted a goal of his own with the empty net and a three one lead.
For Florida, this is certainly not the way Lu would have liked things to go in what may have been his last start in Vancouver. Unfortunately the rest of his team ghosted him like they did Gerard Gallant.
It was Loui Eriksson’s first multi-point night since November 10th (yes, November) and his first three point night since a November 8th 8-5 win over Boston.
Leivo played well tonight in limited minutes, had a number of decent opportunities in his first game back from the IR. Brandon Sutter and his line had zero points tonight while receiving roughly 18 minutes of ice time, each. What’s remarkable is that Sutter’s Zone Start Rate was 42.86, compared to his linemates who both ended up at 50, meaning an equal portion of their starts were in the offensive and defensive zones. This doesn’t bode well for Sutter who was arguably the second worse player at even strength for the Canucks tonight, behind one Erik Gudbranson.
It’s never good when the team’s worst player from an xGF per-sixty ranking and third worse player from an xGA per-sixty ranking is on the ice for nearly a third of the game. The lack of depth at center behind Horvat and Pettersson is pretty glaring when you look at Sutter as your second line center.
When you look at the defense, I think the two best takeaways are:
- Things are looking better since the Hutton Gudbranson pairing was broken up. I thought Hutton and Stecher played serviceably tonight
- Gudbranson was at his best tonight fighting Haley and sitting in the box for 1/12th of the game
After a tough loss against Arizona, the Canucks found themselves barely on the other side of things against an at-best mediocre Florida team.
They’ll take on a reeling Edmonton team at home later this week. Edmonton is having such a tough go in a post-Klefbom world, they’re working Manning and Petrovic into the lineup as perceived upgrades. McDavid was sick for their skills competition earlier this week, so you wonder if he’ll be 100% for the Wednesday night matchup.