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Instant Reaction: Lotto Line and Thatcher Demko lead Canucks to 6-3 win over Rangers

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Photo credit:© Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
David Quadrelli
3 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! Wyatt Arndt is on Stanchies duty and Mike Liu will have The Statsies — CA’s analytics-based post game report — out tomorrow morning. 
The last time the Rangers and Canucks met, the Canucks held their own at five on five but got hurt when they gave the Rangers’ power play opportunities. The Canucks picked up three even strength goals but gave up three while shorthanded. To win tonight, they were going to need to limit the Rangers’ power play opportunities and win the battle at five on five.
Transcendent analysis, I know.
And yet, on their first shift of the game, the Canucks’ fourth line that has been struggling as of late continued their bad play when Nils Aman took a holding penalty 200 feet from the Canucks’ net to put the Rangers on the power play. That wasn’t the game plan, as we already established, and it didn’t take long for the Rangers to show us why.
Looking to bounce back, the Canucks sent out the Lotto Line, and for good reason, as the line appeared to pick up right where they left off after being reunited in New Jersey on Saturday:
Then, in an effort to completely redeem themselves, the fourth line gave the Canucks their first lead of the night after a pretty passing play resulted in Nils Höglander scoring a beautiful goal, his 11th tally of the season:
Now, Thatcher Demko didn’t have his best night on Saturday in New Jersey, and was part of the reason the Devils managed to make a game of it despite the Canucks thoroughly outshooting and outplaying them. Tonight, Demko was sharp early when the Rangers poured on the pressure.
Demko weathered the storm enough to keep the Rangers from building any real momentum, leaving the door wide open for the lotto line to kill whatever moment New York was building in the first period. After a nifty quick up from Quinn Hughes, Elias Pettersson feathered a pass in for Brock Boeser, who made no mistake in burying his 25th of the season.
 
And with 25 goals before the halfway mark of the season, it’s a perfect time for me to remind everyone again that I predicted a 30-goal campaign for Boeser in the summer. People called me delusional, asked me to apologize for “farming for clicks” in August.
The only regret I have is not predicting he’d score 40.
Demko’s clinic in goal continued into the second period, as the Rangers tried to turn their fortunes around. Demko continuously had the answer to start things off, effectively silencing Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers continued to press, and eventually beat the Canucks’ netminder as Artemi Panarin scored his 26th goal of the season:
This game had so much action, and through the halfway point, the Canucks were hanging in with one of the league’s best teams.
Elias Pettersson bolstered the Canucks’ lead to two with a goal of the year candidate:
Then the Canucks’ “second” line got to work, with Nils Höglander making a nifty move to give the Canucks a 5-2 lead heading into the third period. That’s Höglander’s second of the game, as he shows signs of heating up after losing the spot in the top six that he held for most of the month of December.
The most common knock against his year’s Canucks is that they still have yet to show they can consistently beat the truly upper-echelon teams. Through 40 minutes of play, the Canucks were leading the NHL’s Eastern Conference team, leading the Rangers to get booed off the ice in back to back periods by the home crowd.
Up by three, the third period was all about trying to play as low event hockey as possible against the bonafide elite Rangers. Vincent Trochek cut the lead down to two roughly four minutes into the third when he beat Thatcher Demko with a wrist shot off the rush.
Again, the Canucks tried to get back into lock-it-down mode as the Rangers continued to pour on the pressure. And lock it down they did, as the Canucks picked up the 6-3 victory on the back of a strong Thatcher Demko.
Some other takeaways from tonight:
-This was a tremendous bounce back start for Thatcher Demko, who hasn’t had the best run lately in terms of save percentage. Saturday’s start in New Jersey was mildly concerning, and Demko would certainly like to keep starts like that few and far between. Tonight was a great potential building point for him.
-Andrei Kuzmenko just seems so disinterested in playing Rick Tocchet-style hockey, and tonight, there were multiple instances of him shying away from contact, refusing to engage in board battles, and being lackadaisical on the forecheck. When everybody buys in the way this team has, Kuzmenko really does stick out like a sore thumb.
-The Canucks moved to 23-0 when leading after two periods, and this was arguably one of the Canucks’ most impressive wins.
What’s your instant reaction to tonight’s game? Let us know in the comments section below!

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