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Instant Reaction: Canucks beat Islanders to jump back to first in NHL’s Western Conference

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Photo credit:© Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
David Quadrelli
5 months ago
Welcome back to Instant Reaction — the series here at CanucksArmy where we give you our instant reaction to the game and ask our readers to do the same in the comments section below! Cody Severtson is writing The Stanchies and Mike Liu will have The Statsies — CA’s analytics-based post game report — tomorrow morning.
On the season, the Canucks came into tonight’s game 2-2-1 in the second leg of back-to-back matchups. Could this record be better? Sure. Could it be worse? You know it could!
Thatcher Demko was crucial to the Canucks picking up the 6-3 win over the New York Rangers on Monday night, as he turned aside 39 of 42 shots against. He came up with plenty of key saves for the Canucks, especially in the first period when the Rangers poured on the pressure. The Canucks were hoping for a similar performance from backup Casey DeSmith tonight.
And to start things off, Casey certainly delivered.
With the Canucks being outshot 10-4, Mat Barzal took the game’s first penalty and gave the Canucks’ power play their first opportunity in what feels like a very long time. The first unit couldn’t get it done, but as the power play expired and two defencemen hopped over the boards, Filip Hronek let go of a slapper that felled Casey Cizikas before gathering the puck again and beating Ilya Sorokin for his third goal as a Canuck.
That’s Hronek’s 33rd point of the year already. His previous career high came last season, when he tallied 39 points. He’s obviously going to break that, but will Hronek finish the season with over 50 points? 60 points?
Speaking of defencemen scoring goals…
Quinn Hughes bolstered the Canucks’ lead to two with just over a minute remaining in the first period. And it was a thing of beauty, as the goal came after a strong shift from the Lotto Line.
The spin. The head fake. The shoulder shimmy. The cut to the middle. The ability to somehow get this shot through. Come on.
The Canucks opened the second period on the power play after Anders Lee elbowed Carson Soucy to give the Canucks the highest number of power plays they’ve had in their past six games: Two.
Then Noah Dobson tripped Ilya Mikheyev, giving the Canucks 10 seconds of 5 on 3 power play time. The Canucks cycled the puck around and Quinn Hughes continued to look incredibly dangerous, but the Canucks failed to convert.
Just when you thought the Islanders were going to build momentum, Casey DeSmith was there to shut the door tonight. This one came off of a Tyler Myers turnover at the Islanders’ blue line, and is a good way to show you just how good DeSmith was tonight.
Do you know who’s been better than any Canuck lately, though? Elias Pettersson. That also continued tonight, as he and JT Miller teamed up to score this beautiful give and go goal to make it 3-0 Canucks.
Teddy Blueger took a penalty shortly after, and Brock Nelson got the Islanders on the board during the ensuing power play.
Then, just as we all thought he would, Tyler Myers let go of a cannon of a slap shot while coming down the rush to make it 4-1 Canucks.
And just like that, the Canucks had outscored the Islanders in each of the first two periods of this game.
The third period was more of the same. The Canucks were outplaying the Islanders, and the shot clock was starting to reflect that. Five minutes into the third, the Canucks were outshooting the Islanders 28-17. And for the rest of the period, the Canucks put on a clinic on protecting leads. They gave the Islanders nothing and weren’t particularly worried about generating much themselves.
They had done all the generating they needed to do in the opening 40 minutes.
The Islanders nearly made it interesting after Brock Nelson scored his second of the goal game with just under five minutes remaining. A late penalty killed their comeback hopes though, as the Canucks walked away with the 5-2 victory after Dakota Joshua added an empty netter.
Some takeaways from tonight:
-I called him out for his embarrassing effort and lack of hustle on the forecheck last night, but Andrei Kuzmenko had some noticeable jump tonight, and deserves to have that highlighted.
-Nils Höglander continues to look ready for a bigger role, and I’m curious when he’ll get the promotion to the Canucks’ second line. If the Lotto Line continues to roll like they are, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest.
Finally, let’s put this game into perspective. Tonight is the Canucks’ third straight win, and is the first time they’ve ever swept all three of the New York teams after taking down the Devils and Rangers previously.
Tonight, they came into a playoff team’s building for the second of back-to-back games and once again controlled the game en route to a commanding victory.
It’s January. This team is legit, and with the LA Kings losing to Tampa Bay in overtime tonight, the Canucks continue to extend their cushion for 1st place in the Pacific Division. Oh, and they’re now one point ahead of the Winnipeg Jets for first in the Western Conference.
Just as we all thought they would be at the halfway mark of the season.
What’s your instant reaction to tonight’s game? Let us know in the comments section below!

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