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Photo Credit: @Canucks Twitter

Vancouver Canucks at Edmonton Oilers Post-Game Recap: The Comeback Is Cancelled

Warmup

Less than 24 hours—and a short flight—after what might have been their most emotional victory of the season, the Vancouver Canucks found themselves facing off with Connor McDavid and the Oilers in Rogers Place.

For Sam Gagner, the matchup represented an opportunity for revenge on the franchise that exiled him to the minors. For the Canucks, it meant one of their few remaining opportunities to play a sub-.500 opponent and earn a desperately-needed two points in the Western Conference wildcard race.

Jeff Paterson provided the lineups on Twitter, which included the news that Thatcher Demko would start and that Ben Hutton was out with an apparent foot injury:

Tonight also marked the 800th game in Alex Edler’s career.

1st Period 

In what might be described as a less-than-ideal start, Derrick Pouliot took a high-sticking penalty 26 seconds into the game. The Oilers’ first—and, really, their only—powerplay unit features Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, and the duo earned a handful of chances on the man advantage but were unable to beat Thatcher Demko. With seven saves in the first five minutes of the period, Demko was already off to a better start than in his last outing.

The good times for Demko did not last—and the bad times for Pouliot kept on rolling. The frequently-embattled defenseman coughed up the puck to Sam Gagner behind his own net under light duress. Gagner then centered to Alex Chiasson for an in-close shot that Demko didn’t have much of a chance on. 1-0 Oilers, and one box checked on Gagner’s vengeance checklist.

Jujhar Khaira received a similar chance on the very next shift, but this time Demko was able to get in front of it. It already looked like it might be a long night for the rookie netminder, with 13 shots against before the period’s halfway point.

In a near “opposite day” kind of occurrence, McDavid took a holding penalty against Jay Beagle, sending the Canucks to their first powerplay of the game. The Boeser- and Horvat-less “top” unit hit the ice first, but were unable to generate much more than a shot on net. Pettersson stayed out with the second unit when they came out and that group—which also featured Troy Stecher and Adam Gaudette—put together numerous chances but couldn’t finish on any of them.

The Canucks would have liked to build on that momentum, but McDavid had other ideas. Immediately after exiting the box, McDavid flew into the Vancouver zone and took a pass from Draisaitl at top speed, easily juking by the Canucks’ defense before saucing the puck to an unchecked Zack Kassian in front. Kassian had blown through Tyler Motte’s coverage and into perfect position for a tap-in. 2-0 Oilers, and two goals featuring ex-Canucks. Also, two goals that couldn’t really be blamed on Demko at all.

To add injury to insult, Kassian proceeded to absolutely crush Ashton Sautner on his next shift—though he also appeared to decline Luke Schenn’s invitation to fight in the aftermath. To even things up, Josh Leivo turned down a bout with Darnell Nurse shortly thereafter. As both teams upped the physicality, it became clear that neither squad was interested in what would be a demoralizing loss for either of them.

As Vancouver started to get their feet under them, they started to test Mikko Koskinen with regularity—and the shots ended up at 18-17 in favour of the Canucks by the end of the period. Leivo led the charge with five shots of his own. The scoreboard, however, remained at 2-0 Oilers. As for the out-of-town scoreboard—

—probably file that one under “less-than-ideal,” too.

Intermission Highlight 

Dan Murphy’s passive-aggressive interview with Mark Spector.

“Danny.” “Spector.”

2nd Period 

The situation did not improve as the second period began. Just over a minute into the frame, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins dug out the puck along the boards and fed Connor McDavid. The Oilers’ captain circled into the slot with speed before making another perfect tip-pass to an unattended Nugent-Hopkins—completing the extended give-and-go and giving Edmonton a 3-0 lead.

Tanner Pearson earned the Canucks’ best chance yet shortly thereafter, handcuffing Mikko Koskinen with a wrister that rebounded dangerously into the slot—but Bo Horvat was unable to reach it in time.

Nikolay Goldobin and Elias Pettersson did their best Draisaitl/McDavid impression, with Goldobin setting up a streaking Pettersson as he entered the zone. Andrej Sekera had not choice but to trip the shifty Swede, sending Vancouver to their second powerplay of the game.

The man advantage would be a brief one, however, as Zack Kassian quickly broke away shorthanded, forcing Troy Stecher to grab him by the arm and negate the powerplay 38 seconds in. Neither team scored during the four-on-four action, and the Oilers were unable to convert on their own brief opportunity.

As Vancouver struggled to generate offense, the efforts of two forwards in particular stood out. Josh Leivo continued to take charge offensively, leading a four-on-two that was broken up by a Brock Boeser giveaway. Nikolay Goldobin, on the other hand, set up a number of nice plays that went nowhere once they hit the sticks of his teammates.

Antoine Roussel, meanwhile, tried to get the squad going in his own way—by going after McDavid post-whistle and drawing the ire of Kassian.

With just a minute-and-a-half remaining in the middle frame, it would be Jay Beagle who finally got the Canucks going with the tap-in of all tap-ins. After Mikko Koskinen let a soft Boeser shot trickle through his pads, Beagle was left all alone with the puck literally waiting for him on the goal-line. For Beagle—wearing the “A” on his chest tonight—it was his first goal in 21 games.

Beagle remained unimpressed with himself:

The period ended with the score at 3-1—but not before McDavid had a clean breakaway with 20 seconds remaining that was turned away by a well-positioned Demko. It was Demko’s 30th shot against.

The out-of-town scoreboard was also stacked against the Canucks:

Intermission Highlight

Sven Baertschi’s confusing joke (?) about “Netflix and…sweatpants, I guess.”

3rd Period 

The start of the third period went significantly better for the Canucks than the previous two, with no major chances against in the first few minutes and Connor McDavid taking the worst of a collision between he and Brock Boeser.

Some solid pressure applied by the Ashton Sautner-Luke Schenn pairing produced a couple of chances and an Oscar Klefbom penalty for holding Josh Leivo. Once again, Newell Brown threw his powerplay units in the blender—producing a top unit of Bo Horvat, Adam Gaudette, Markus Granlund, Nikolay Goldobin, and Alex Edler. This island of misfit toys managed multiple chances that Mikko Koskinen denied.

The second unit of Edler, Boeser, Elias Pettersson, Tanner Pearson, and Josh Leivo kept on the pressure, and the end result a long shot from Edler drifting past Koskinen shortly after Klefbom returned to the ice. Leivo and Horvat provided the double-screen, though some light contact from Horvat on Koskinen led the Oilers to unsuccessfully challenge the goal. The score was 3-2 with a little under 13 minutes remaining. Boeser and Pettersson picked up the assists, ending a four-game pointless drought for Pettersson.

A Derrick Pouliot giveaway at the blueline resulted in an Edmonton two-on-one that threatened to bury the Canucks, but Thatcher Demko stretched out to make a dazzling toe save on Leon Draisaitl. Vancouver lugged the puck back up the ice and Tyler Motte tipped the puck past Koskinen—but not the crossbar. The final frame looked poised for a firewagon finish, with the Canucks looking to make a two-goal comeback in the third period for a second consecutive game.

After the second TV timeout, Draisaitl sent Pettersson to the ice with a can-opener and went to the box for the Canucks’ fourth powerplay of the game. This time, the big boys came out right away and began firing away at Koskinen without success. Unfortunately, as the second unit came out, Vancouver was caught with too many men on the ice, negating their man advantage less than a minute in. The infraction appeared to be the result of Boeser neglecting to come off the ice.

Despite some confusion at the benches that caused an odd-man rush against Demko, the Oilers were unable to score during the brief powerplay that followed the stint of four-on-four, and the Canucks got back to the business of tying the game with five minutes remaining.

Travis Green pulled Demko later than he would have liked thanks to the Canucks’ inability to exit their zone. Vancouver went 6-4 with just over a minute remaining, but soon found themselves right back in their own end. Draisaitl hit the post on an attempt at the empty cage, giving the Canucks one last burst of hope—but Vancouver was unable to get a single shot on net with Demko on the bench, and the game remained untied.   

Wrap-Up 

If there’s such a thing as a “must-win” game, this one probably qualified as a “can’t-lose.” The Canucks don’t have many games left against sub-.500 games, and the two points they could have earned against the Oilers were absolutely vital to their dwindling playoff hopes.

Sure, the Canucks made a valiant effort to come back—but they also put themselves in the position of being down 3-0 in the first place, and that’s simply not going to cut it if the squad wants to make it to the postseason.

With the loss—and with wins for the Minnesota Wild, Dallas Stars, and Arizona Coyotes tonight—the Canucks now sit nine points back of the last wildcard spot in the Western Conference with a scant 15 games remaining. The victory actually vaulted the Oilers—and the Blackhawks—past Vancouver in the standings, leaving the Canucks third from the bottom in the conference.

In other words, it was a big loss for the Canucks—and a big win for #TeamTank. 

Fancy Stats At A Glance

 

Gameflow from Canucks @ Edmonton March 7, 2019 (courtesy of naturalstattrick.com)

Heatmap from Canucks @ Edmonton March 7, 2019 (courtesy of naturalstattrick.com)

Top Performers 

Josh Leivo

Leivo led the team in shots with six, played nearly 20 minutes, and set one of the screens on Alex Edler’s goal. At times, he seemed like the only Canuck capable of driving any offense—and one of the few that consistently played like he knew it was an important game.

Nikolay Goldobin

Goldobin’s playmaking skills were on full display tonight—even if his teammates weren’t feeling up to finishing any of those plays. Goldobin routinely dished the puck to teammates in dangerous areas despite being bounced around a couple of lines. Goldobin’s ice-time of 16:28 was fifth most among forwards.

Alex Edler

Edler was all over the statsheet tonight. He scored a goal, had five shots on net, four hits, four blocks, and a takeaway. He also played an astounding 29:25, with more than five-and-a-half minutes of special teams time. With Ben Hutton out, the load Edler has to carry on the left side of the blueline is enormous.

Next Game

The Canucks head back home face the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday, March 9. The star-time is 7:00PM PST and the game will be broadcast on both CBC and Sportsnet Pacific.

  • KMA

    The effort was there and that is what counts. My only comment is to play the Oil tougher if they want to have a better chance to win. Hit to hurt not to bounce off the guy.

    • Gino's 3rd Cousin

      The Canucks don’t have a lot of guys that can deliver a nice body check. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a “heavy” team that can punish the opposition that way.

  • canuckfan

    Demko played a good game Canucks were in tough at the beginning which had them starting from a bad position again this time having to score 3 to tie. Almost made it if not for a few posts and crossbars.

  • Kanuckhotep

    Another loss, yes, but consider this. How many Canuck losses have been 1 goal games this season? Despite all the injuries and lack of depth they’ve largely been in the hunt most games though they’ve had a few crummy ones the last couple of weeks. So it ain’t all bad. The effort is usually there and at minimum that’s all a fan can ask for.

  • Bud Poile

    I’m looking forward to seeing Quinton play with Petey and see how Hughes elevates both him and the PP to finish off the schedule.
    Like the Canucks season,it looks like Pouliot is done.

    • SeattleSockeyeNHL

      Don’t feed the troll… it’s all a pathetic act for attention.

      “The team is rebuilt and competitive within just two down years. From talent waster/franchise destroyer to rebuilt,exciting hockey squad in record time.” – Bud Poile

    • Kootenaydude

      I’m looking forward to a new powerplay coach. Green asks the players to give 100% and they do most games. The Canucks coaching staff hasn’t done anything to improve the powerplay.

      • MattyT

        Dim post of the day here guys.

        So Green coaches the team and makes them give 100 per cent… yet they still LOSE and don’t reach the playoffs.

        So clearly the coach isn’t good enough even when forcing the players to give 100 per cent is he. Nextttttttt.

        So giving 100 per cent isn’t enough is it!!!!!!!!!!!!

        • Cageyvet

          I agree, you did make the dim post of the day, as usual.

          You need the talent to win, anyone with half a brain would understand that the effort is required, but isn’t all that it takes.

          Then again, your ability to focus and comprehend is probably affected by your multiple personality disorder.

      • Cageyvet

        True, but I hope they get a new pp coach who can exploit the skills of our young guns, not just be incapable of totally stultifying them. NB has to go, the puck movement is atrocious.

  • Defenceman Factory

    Demko played a decent game and looked more comfortable. Hope we get to see him several more times as playoff hopes fade to black.

    For all the criticism levelled at Goldobin (including from me) and at Green for his handling of Goldy we may finally be seeing him emerge of a bona fide top 6 forward. He has put together a stretch of games now of very solid effort. I really hope it isn’t just a push to put value into his next contract which has to be negotiated this off season.

    I found myself missing Virtanen from the line-up particularly last night. He may not be that solid top 6 guy everyone hoped when drafted but his speed and heavy presence does change the way other teams play. With Roussel playing down the line-up just not enough disruption going on.

    Leivo sure looks worth keeping. He needs a contract and has arbitration rights. Not sure what to make of Pearson and Spooner, both are decent players but it wouldn’t bother me if one or both are moved.

    Gaudette deserves to keep getting minutes. He is developing well into a 3rd line centre. If Poulliot’s future wasn’t already determined he probably sealed hit fate last night.

    Lots of contracts to write and decisions to make this offseason.

    • canuckfan

      With a lot of the contracts that are coming due it will be time to decide who to renew and who to not offer another contract such as Granlund. He is a valuable player to keep around but if we are going to start to drive the offense next season he would have to be replaced.
      Pearson seems to be a player who can push the play and play a heavy game in the corners. Leivo is a good pick up and has added value to the team, and Roussel has enough drive to play anywhere in the lineup and not look out of place.
      Just with the player we have Sven (I hope that he will be okay for next season) Bo, and Peason then the second line could be Leivo, Petey, and Brock third Goldie, Gaudette, and Jake fourth Roussel, Beagle, and Erikksson. Sutter would be a wild card if not traded. That would be a decent lineup but training camp could see some players lose a spot because someone else came in and pushed one of the above out of a spot.
      A healthy Sven and a motivated Goldie and less injuries would I think see more goals. Gaudette’s line would be a good third line that could add some scoring. Having 3 lines driving offense would be a lot more exciting to watch.
      Shoring up the defense will be where the changes really need to happen. Having Hughes come in for an audition at the tail end of the season we may see the style of play change from trying to hold back the other team to driving the play. Then Markstrom and Demko if they play the way we expect the Canucks fortunes should start to change to the positive. Don’t see the 2019 draft pick making the lineup for next year but they will add to the team in 2020/2021.
      Injuries have really hurt being able to truly evaluate the team except the obvious that the depth in all positions still needs upgrades.

    • DogBreath

      I read recently somewhere that Virtanen could be a trade chip this summer to help the RHD situation. Though he had s great start, he has had an unimpressive last few months. He still has more upside to consistently display, but I don’t see him consistently being a top 6 winger. Given their recent abundance of 3rd line wingers, I’d be open to him being packaged with others for a top 4 RHD.

      • SeattleSockeyeNHL

        Good riddance. Virtanen is a top six Benning BUST… uacceptable, just like four years straight of no playoffs under a GM who told us in 2014 “this is a team we can turn around in a hurry.”

        Time for change – the ticket buying fans who support this dire team with their pocketbooks year after failed year deserve better than this perennial sh*t show bottomfeeder. Don’t they?

          • Goon

            It’s an easy way to track how many active duplicate accounts he has.

            To the topic at hand: I don’t think Virtanen carries the kind of value that would help to acquire a top-four RHD. You can’t package up three players each worth a “3” and get a “9” player back. It just doesn’t work that way. Unless you’re trading with Ottawa.

  • Kootenaydude

    We’ve got a lot of middle / bottom six players on this team right now. We definitely have to part with at least one of Leivo, Pearson or Spooner. Granlund, Sutter and Schaller have to be gone in the summer as well. Personally I think the Canucks are only one RHD and a top pairing winger from making the playoffs. I don’t know if we can make a push for the cup in the future with the coaching staff we have now though. Powerplay being the main reason, but also the positioning of players in the offensive zone, the lack of shots from the slot and the lack of high danger shots. I’m not going to blame them for the defensive play as our defencemen suck.

    • I agree with your assessment about the RHD and top pairing winger. Benning has been saying he’s been looking for those for a couple of years now. In addition to those, we need to be healthy. The absence of a totally healthy team been killing us.

      I would be more inclined to keep Leivo, Pearson, and Spooner and jettison Sutter and Eriksson on retained salary transactions. Assume a worst-case scenario such as 50% retention, Sutter surely must be worth a draft pick in return at $2.1M. Same with Eriksson with a cap hit of 3M? Addition by subtraction, that frees up roster spots and let’s us insert younger, faster, hungrier, and less injury-prone players.

      As for Granlund, it doesn’t look like he’ll be more than a 20-30 point player *but* at $1.5M, that’s a hell of a bargain for a utility player that you can reliably deploy anywhere in the roster, on the PP and PK, and he take face-offs. It’s not so much he’s strengths that make him valuable (as he is slightly below average at everything he does) but he has no glaring weaknesses (i.e. he doesn’t totally suck at anything).

      And fire Newell Brown. Please.

      • MattyT

        “And fire Newell Brown. Please”… he squeaks… but wait…

        “This is a situation where Pedan’s brawn could be applied as a bottom pairing enforcer/PP specialist under Brown’s expertise.” – Forever 1915

        Another two-faced hypocrite exposed guys. Why do these laughers embarrass themselves like this. So annoying.

          • MattyT

            Says the no-life loser who has been WHINING the same tired narrative hating on CA nd the writers for FOUR YEARS… yet comes back every day… to WHINE!!!

            Off you trot, sulking and… whining.

        • Goon

          There’s only one embarrassment here.

          Forever 1915 has been consistent in his criticism of Brown since the re-hiring was announced. Even if he hadn’t been, people are allowed to change their minds. Pedan was traded away two years ago, about the same time Brown was hired.

          • MattyT

            That’s right Goof, the one embarrassment is YOU, swamping every thread with your ridiculous amount of lame comments and snark, posting the same laughable c@p as Forever…

            “Great news – Newell Brown’s a great PP coach.” – Goon on the re-hiring of Brown.

            Now run off crying like the pu^^y you are and try getting a job or a life eh.

          • Goon

            Yes, I think Newell Brown has a strong record and that most of the Canucks problems come down to personnel, not systems. Forever 1915 and I have debated this in the past. What of it?

  • Fred-65

    Not a bad showing for a back to back game. I see TO who played against Vcr on Wednesday sit until playing the Oilers on Saturday, it would have been nice if that was the reverse, Vct sit until Sat and the Leafs play last night. I’ve been trying to keep an eye on Schenn and his play does seem to be improving, if he could loose some weight …maybe. Beiga is looking much better with a string of games rather than in and out of the line up and lastly Gaudette is on the verge. He’s attempting plays and the puck doesn’t seem to be a grenade, you have t think he deserves a full time spot next season

    • SeattleSockeyeNHL

      Meh – Don’t waste your money on this hot garbage any longer Fred. Treat you and your daughter to season tickets in Seattle, it’s gonna be a hella ride, just like Vegas!!! It’s a Benning free zone in Jet City lol

      • Fred-65

        If you could get George McPhee as GM maybe I would LOL but I don’t see Seattle pulling off what Vegas did. Other GM’s are embarrassed or should be by what McPhee did to them collectively. You have to think that was master plan and look like he’s following that up with a second season worth bragging about. Great for Vegas embarrassing for other GM’s LOL

        • SeattleSockeyeNHL

          yah – a legit contender with everyone elses cast-offs out of the gate for two seasons in a row. How is Benning doing in FIVE seasons again Fred LOL.

          Don’t be surprised if Seattle hit the ground running either, there are some great names already in the mix for management jobs… including the most successful GM in Vancouver history, Mike Gillis. Get those tickets Fred lol

          • Lil Nash Rambler

            I don’t have anything against Mike Gillis. He did some good things and some bad things, had strengths and weaknesses, and wasn’t horrible as a rookie GM (Stanley Cup Final). Maybe he’s better than Benning, maybe worse overall – maybe they have mirror image strengths and weaknesses… by the time he left it was definitely time for him to go, and let’s face it his drafting was not good…

            Regardless of any of that, I find that the CA comments section is a LOT more entertaining to read when you imagine that PQW is actually A bitter Mike Gillis, sitting in his Mama’s basement and desperately trying to get Benning fired and pump his own tires…

          • Bud Poile

            Yeah,but Mike Gillis is an adult with a wife,grown daughter and bachelor’s degree spending his spare time on the golf course.
            PQW has been banned here multiple times but refuses to cease and desist.Hacking CA members and heckling Canucks fans,creating endless CA accounts and ragging on Benning every day while his multiple personalities stroke each other for platitudes and vindictive hatred of others is mentally disturbing.

          • Fred-65

            What’s the ticket prices going to be. I tend to think that Seattle will cost more than Canucks ( C$) I used to enjoy the old soccer clashes … back when Vcr played at Empire and the NASL, good rivalry