Instant Reaction: Canucks beat Sabres 1-0 in a game filled with playoff-like physicality

Photo credit:© Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
David Quadrelli
5 months ago
Welcome back to Instant Reaction — the series here at CanucksArmy where we give our instant reaction to the game and ask our readers to do the same in the comments section below! Wyatt Arndt is on The Stanchies tonight and Mike Liu will have The Statsies — CA’s analytics-based post game report — out tomorrow morning!
The two sides went back and forth without much flow to open things up. Peyton Krebs hauled down Conor Garland eight minutes into the period to give the Canucks the game’s first power play opportunity.
The Canucks’ PP couldn’t really get set up, and for the next few minutes that followed, it was all Buffalo as the Sabres took a 9-3 advantage on the shot clock. After that, the Canucks’ third line had a great shift in which Conor Garland was instrumental to extended zone time. It was also a great shift for Tyler Myers, who continues to show major improvements in his all around game. Myers made the simple play on multiple occasions and is embodying the philosophy of letting the game come to him.
Myers’ partner Nikita Zadorov has also been playing well of late, and that continued this afternoon when he continued to throw his weight around:
The first period ended tied up at zero.
Brock Boeser appeared to open the scoring when he took a rinkwide feed from Elias Pettersson and rifled it past Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. Unforutantely, Buffalo challenged for offsides and the goal was called back.
Just over a minute later, Sam Lafferty scored one that stood to count! After the goal, Jordan Greenway hit Lafferty, leaving the Canuck with a cut under his eye. This is where the chippiness and physicality really started.
You’ll see it in The Stanchies later, but there was an interesting sequence later when JT Miller caught Rasmus Dahlin in a vulnerable position. Pretending to be tough, Owen Power went after Miller but then turtled with his gloves on when Miller dropped his gloves. Both Power and Miller were assessed two minute minors after a lengthy replay review.
Later, Erik Johnson dropped the gloves with JT Miller to enact revenge, and that gave us our annual reminder that JT can absolutely chuck ’em.
Miller has said multiple times that he drops the gloves “once a year”. Miller had four fights last season (one against now-teammate Carson Soucy), but this was his first fight of this season. How many more will we see?
This game continued to have some life injected into it as Zach Benson mixed it up with Filip Hronek after the whistle. This led to a post whistle scrum that ended up with Quinn Hughes at the bottom of it and Jordan Greenway and Hronek in the penalty box. Hughes was none too pleased with the contact he was absorbing in the second period, as he was clearly being targeted by the Sabres’ players.
This road trip has been a very good display of what playoff hockey is going to look like. We’ve seen calls go against the Canucks against the New York teams, the whistles put away altogether against Pittsburgh, and today, we saw a lesser opponent identify that their best chance at beating the Canucks was to finish every check they could on the Canucks’ best players. It’s a good range of adversity for this team to face in January, and so far, they’ve answered the right way with each bit of adversity they’ve faced: by winning games.
Dakota Joshua high sticked Connor Clifton to give the Sabres their first power play opportunity of the game. What followed was an exceptional bit of penalty killing from Elias Pettersson, who continues to do it all for this team.
Speaking of coming up big and doing it all for your team, check out this save from Thatcher Demko late in the second period with the Canucks shorthanded:
Thanks to saves like these, the Canucks hung on to their one-goal lead heading into the third and final frame. And as Kate Pettersen has told us many times, the Canucks remain undefeated when leading after two periods this season, with an overall record of 25-0-0 in games where they enter the third with a lead.
Before we get to the third, let’s first recap JT Miller’s eventful second period:
-Hit Rasmus Dahlin (and injured him, leading to the Sabres targeting Hughes)
-Fought Owen Power (Power didn’t drop his gloves)
-Got out of penalty box
-Fought Erik Johnson
Playoff JT is going to be so much fun.
Early in the third period, an interference penalty to Nils Höglander gave the Sabres their third power play of the game and a prime opportunity to tie things up.
Some key saves from *checks notes* Ian Cole and once again, Thatcher Demko, kept the Sabres off the board as these teams went back to five on five.
The chippiness continued as both sides finished every hit they could. EP40 led the charge when Buffalo went after him, and there’s just something badass about an elite player choosing to take matters into their own hands when the other side chooses to take liberties. The other badass thing is that the Canucks now have players like Nikita Zadorov, who can dish it out as good as anyone:
In the final minutes with the Buffalo net empty, JT Miller made sure that Thatcher Demko earned every bit of his shutout today when he set up JJ Peterka for a shot all alone in the slot.
After Buffalo called their timeout, the Canucks went right back to the Lotto Line to lock this game down. And lock it down they did, as the Canucks took home the 1-0 victory for their fifth straight win on this road trip.
Demko was stellar in backstopping his team that refused to be bullied when Buffalo ramped up the physicality today.
When’s the last time Canucks games down the stretch got fans excited for what was going to come in the playoffs? Seriously, when? Because right now, this team continues to hum and continues to be incredibly fun to watch.
Some other takeaways from today’s game:
-Connor McDavid ripped into the league for their ridiculously long replay reviews, and now it’s my turn. Because I’m a jerk — worse, a sportswriter — I pulled out a stopwatch during the delays during the officials huddles. We lost 4:39 of action today due to replay reviews. First the Boeser goal, then Miller daring to throw a hit. How does that make you feel?
-Serious question: Do you like the early starts on weekends? We know the Pacific time zone is obviously the best one for watching North American sports, with football Sunday starting at 10 AM and running all day long. Games don’t start at 10 PM, and we never really have to worry about missing any sporting event we want to watch.
-Something I’m keeping an eye on tonight is the Canucks’ team charter’s ability to leave the Buffalo airport. A huge snowstorm is affecting the region, and we’ve already seen the San Jose Sharks cancel their plans to fly into Buffalo this evening. The Canucks’ plane headed for Columbus is expected to leave at 8 PM local time. You can see the flight’s status here.
What’s your instant reaction to today’s game? Let us know in the comments section below!

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