The Vancouver Canucks were once again shorthanded for a home game in which they were missing some key personnel.
Thatcher Demko, Jaro Halak, and even Spencer Martin — who started in the club’s 2-1 shootout loss at the hands of the Florida Panthers — were sidelined by the NHL’s COVID protocols.
The Canucks were once again relying on an AHL goaltender to lead them to victory.
Here’s how they lined up in front of Michael DiPietro.
— Brendan Batchelor (@BatchHockey) January 24, 2022
Let’s do this!
Michael DiPietro’s first save of the game came from a location that the Florida Panthers flat out weren’t able to shoot from on Friday night.
Torey Krug found himself all alone in the slot with time and space after a defensive zone turnover from Nils Höglander and a slight hesitation from Tyler Myers.
DiPietro flashed the leather and was serenaded by the Rogers Arena faithful for the first time of the night.
After Elias Pettersson set up Nils Höglander for a shot in the middle that was swallowed up by Ville Husso.
After that, it was some vintage Canucks defending in the other end.
And not in a good way.
The Canucks failed to vacate their own zone numerous times and were hemmed in against St. Louis’ top line. DiPietro showed some signs of hyperactivity and perhaps was a bit too excited in the moment as he scrambled on a few shots that he normally looks much more poised in handling.
Playing in the NHL on short notice will do that to you.
Klim Kostin took a holding penalty, sending the Canucks to the first power play of the game with just under 14 minutes remaining in the first.
The Canucks got very few quality looks off on Husso and the power play expired.
St. Louis came the other way and got a few more dangerous-looking chances off on DiPietro, who was looking like he’d be facing a much tougher workload than the one Martin faced against Florida on Friday.
Matthew Highmore singlehandedly drew two penalties, as Ivan Barbashev got called for roughing before Torey Krug got called for removing the helmet, which gave the Canucks a 5-on-3 for a full two minutes.
The Canucks cycled the puck around and got a total of five shots off before Tanner Pearson banged home a loose puck literally just as the penalties expired. 1-0 Canucks.
Justin Faulk answered the call of duty shortly after when he — while skating backwards — tipped a shot between his legs that changed direction on DiPietro and beat him over the shoulder. 1-1.
Myers took a holding penalty with just under a minute to go to give the Blues a late power play.
The Canucks entered the period with over a minute of penalty time leftover from the Myers minor, but managed to kill it off without much trouble.
The Canucks took a bench minor for too many men on the ice and were right back on the penalty kill.
Tucker Poolman left Brayden Schenn wide open for a back door tap in, and after the first pass didn’t make it through, the Blues went right back to Schenn as he was once again left wide open for the exact same back door tap in, and this time he converted. 2-1 Blues after the power play goal.
Despite what the 28-11 shot total in favour of the Canucks would tell you, this wasn’t a game that the Canucks were trailing in because of their goaltender.
Up to this point, most of the Canucks’ chances had come from low-percentage spots, but they were given another opportunity to tie this one up after Tyler Bozak took a tripping penalty with just a hair under ten minutes remaining.
The Canucks didn’t get much generated on this power play attempt either, as the special teams battle continued to be won by the Blues.
DiPietro had to be sharp after a bad change by the Canucks allowed David Perron to move in on a breakaway after DiPietro had gone more than eight minutes without a shot on goal.
With just over three minutes remaining, Jordan Kyrou let go of a seeing eye shot through traffic that beat DiPietro. 3-1 Blues on the Blues’ 13th shot of the game.
The Canucks were going to have to make a comeback in order to get Bruce Boudreau a win in his 1000th game.
Jason Dickinson took a tripping penalty three minutes into the third period and sent the Canucks to the penalty kill against the league’s second-best power play.
The Canucks did a good job of keeping the Blues to the outside and disrupting the offence, and managed to kill off the penalty.
Space was much more limited in the third, with neither team really being able to generate much of anything through the first ten minutes of the third.
Jason Dickinson moved in on a breakaway for the second time tonight, but was once again stopped by Husso.
Perron moved in off the wing and let go of a wrist shot that beat DiPietro but not the post.
Shortly after, Quinn Hughes disrupted a play at the line neatly and broke in on a 2-on-1 with Juho Lammikko. Hughes elected to shoot, and Husso managed to get the shaft of his stick on the shot that was headed blocker side.
With just over two minutes remaining, the Canucks pulled their goalie as they tried to play catchup and stage a miraculous comeback.
Quinn Hughes was fantastic once again in this game. He has consistently been the Canucks’ best defenceman this season and just looks a step above everybody else on the ice at all times.
It’s truly quite remarkable to watch him play, really.
The shot totals were a little deceptive in this one.
The game finished with the Canucks leading in shots by a total of 39-17
“I thought Mikey played really well,” said Quinn Hughes. “He made a couple big saves in the first and in the third. He did his job when he needed to… We all felt confident in him before the game, nobody even talked about it.”
“The guys played great in front of me, unfortunately, couldn’t get the win,” said DiPietro.
The Canucks will get both Jaroslav Halak and Thatcher Demko back on Tuesday, so it will be interesting to see if the club decides to put one of them in without any practice time when they welcome the Edmonton Oilers to town.