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The Tape: Breaking down the Canucks monumental Game 1, third period come back

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Photo credit:Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Tyson Cole
1 month ago
What. A. Comeback. 
The Vancouver Canucks scored three third-period goals to steal Game 1 against the Edmonton Oilers after they led 4-1 only with 23 minutes remaining.
Now, I’m going to be honest. I was covering the Abbotsford Canucks home playoff debut last night, so I’m watching this live with you as I write this. So you’ll get my complete raw reaction to these goals. 
What are we waiting for? Let’s break down how this comeback came about and how the Canucks were able to close out this game.

The Third

I’m going to pretend that I didn’t just watch this video and immediately think Elias Pettersson was back…
But oh my, he had some pep in his step.
Firstly, he gets in the correct position along the boards to block the Stuart Skinner clearing attempt. Noticing that Leon Draisaitl is coming to pressure him, Pettersson boxes him out and makes the pass to the point. 
The Elias Pettersson of the Nashville series would probably just hang around the half-wall, but the Elias Pettersson of the Edmonton series picks up speed around the zone. Once Quinn Hughes fires it D-to-D to Filip Hronek, Pettersson circles towards the net. This turn gives him so much speed and separation from the slacking Draisaitl and is wide open for a tap-in in the slot. 
Now that I’m watching this back, it kind of looks like a set play. Watch slowly as Hughes passes it across. Pettersson and Hronek look at each other as he bolts to the open space, almost like Sedinery, where they know exactly where they are going to be. 
Unfortunately, the pass wouldn’t connect, and Pettersson showed his frustration by bulling over Warren Foegele along the boards.
I am bringing this play to your attention because it further highlights some of the points I mentioned in my tactical breakdown of this series.
After a successful box out from J.T. Miller, he sends a long pass through the Oilers’ soft neutral zone coverage to a streaming Pius Suter up the middle. Suter tries to deke through Mattias Ekholm but fails to do so. 
Evan Bouchard picks up the puck and continues his turnover ways from the regular season, where he led all defencemen in giveaways, as Brock Boeser deflects his clearing attempt. I’m not entirely sure what Ekholm was doing because he’s positioned well out of the play, and Zach Hyman turns his back to the play and starts heading up the ice. This leaves Miller alone at the top of the circle for a clear shot. Unfortunately, the pass missed Miller’s tape for a one-time opportunity. But still, the Oilers were out of position in the defensive zone.
This right here is how you maintain Connor McDavid in the offensive zone.
Pius Suter catches up to McDavid as he takes a pass with space in the high slot. He bumps him just hard enough while getting his stick on the puck to discombobulate McDavid and loses the puck. 
He doesn’t stop there, though. While Suter isn’t glued to McDavid, he positions himself in front of the net, staying in the play but continuing to check on McDavid’s whereabouts. Again, he’s watching McDavid’s eyes and reads his pass attempt to the slot, where he intercepts the play to clear the zone. 
It was a defensive masterclass from Suter on this shift.
Here is another stellar defensive play on McDavid, but this time, it’s Elias Pettersson. As he realized McDavid was gaining speed, he followed him and, in what looks like a last-ditch effort, dived to poke the puck away and prevent a breakaway. If McDavid is left all alone, there’s a decent chance he tallies the fifth Oiler goal of the game and puts the game out of reach for the Canucks.

Goal 1

This whole play was ridiculous, from the initial one-touch pass from Carson Soucy to Brock Boeser, who utilizes the corner boards to get it back to Soucy, who then sends another cross-ice pass back to Boeser. You’d think they were linemates growing up with that level of passing. 
But maybe the most beautiful part of this goal was Miller’s tip. 
Here’s a better view of the goal:
He’s on the goal line, with his stick in line with the trapezoid… How he got enough speed/power on this tip to quickly go past Skinner’s left arm is beyond me. But this was just the first of three goals to kickstart the Canucks comeback. 

Goal 2

Nikita Zadorov, what more is there to say about him on this play? It’s 13:29 into the third period, and the Oilers have yet to register a shot on goal. Zadorov stuffs Kane’s wrap-around attempt to maintain that streak, bodies him out and the Canucks clear the zone. 
As I’ve mentioned, the Oilers’ defence loves to pinch. Vincent Desharnais doesn’t necessarily pinch here, but he definitely steps up on Nils Höglander, allowing him to flip it past him for Teddy Blueger to grab possession in the offensive zone. He patiently waits for Big Z to step into a howitzer and blast the equalizer past Skinner. 
And boy, do I mean howitzer. This shot was clocked in at 94.3 MPH, which makes sense, considering he wound up outside the blue line and clapped it a few feet in the zone. 
Somebody give him the pen and the chequebook already; I’ve seen enough.
I feel like an infomercial popped up in between goals, saying, “But wait, there’s more,” because the great Nikita Zadorov plays doesn’t stop there. 

Goal 3

He picks Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ pocket in the defensive zone and regains the puck behind the net. Zadorov shows patience to wait for the right play, and makes a long stretch pass to Dakota Joshua in the neutral zone. From there, the Joshua and Connor Garland connection does the rest. 
With Darnell Nurse draping on his back, Joshua tips the puck to the left for a streaming Garland to pick up on the rush. With all that speed, he has no problem getting around Nurse; where he does, the patented Conor Garland’s fake slap shot that he’s tried so many times this season. But this time was different; this time, Skinner bites early and exposed his five-hole, and the Canucks got their first lead of the hockey game. 
Skinner biting early on that fake slap shot shows a lack of confidence on his behalf. You know that’s one Skinner will want back, but I guess the pressure of potentially blowing a 4-1 lead in the second round started getting to him, and he let one slip right through his f̶i̶n̶g̶e̶r̶s̶ legs.
This whole epic comeback occurred before Edmonton had their first shot of the period.

Holding down the fort

The first shift after a goal, especially a goal to take the lead late in the playoffs, is so important. The now-trailing team is going to come with some heat, and that’s exactly what Edmonton did. They stacked their top line of McDavid, Draisaitl and Hyman, and how did the Canucks respond?
Yup, Miller’s line, go guard McDavid like you’ve been doing all game, resulting in zero shots on goal in the entire game for last year’s Rocket Richard winner.. The five players on the ice for the Canucks did a great job of keeping play to the perimeters, not allowing any Oiler forward to break to the middle of the zone for a high-danger chance. 
To end the shift, Miller stays in McDavid’s kitchen, watching his eyes and getting his stick in the passing lane to Bouchard to clear the zone. 
Finally, the Oilers find a shot on goal, seconds shy of 16 minutes of the third period. 
Since the goal with 5:34 remaining, outside of the first shift after the goal, the Oilers failed to set up anything offensively into the zone. It was just a constant dump and chase for Edmonton with a clear from Vancouver. That was until the Canucks iced the puck with 2:09 remaining in the third, and Kris Knoblauch pulled his goalie. 
All five skaters on the ice played a role in the icing of this game, but it was the defensive play of Brock Boeser that shined the brightest.
Boeser is down low, covering the open space — and thank God he was. He is in prime position to step up and make the toe-kick block on Ekholm, who had an open look in the slot. Showing no pain, he gets right back up and pressures the puck. 
McDavid finds Ekholm at the point, and Boeser’s back on him like glue. He frantically waves his stick on the ice, hoping to block anything Ekholm throws at him. Ekholm fires the puck, and again, it’s right into the inside of his leg, but showing no grimace, he continues his pursuit. This high pressure from Boeser keeps the play to the perimeter for the final seven seconds of the game. 
As the buzzer sounds ending the game, you can see Boeser hunched over, showing that he felt those blocked shots. But that’s playoff hockey, doing everything and anything you can to win. 
The Canucks manage to replicate their Game 1, third-period heroics from the Nashville series and are now up 1-0 in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Let that soak in. 
Where does this third-period comeback rank for you in all-time Canucks moments, Canucks fans? 
I’ll leave you with this photo that says everything you need to know about this third-period comeback.

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