Though it’d only been 13 days, it felt like an eternity since the Vancouver Canucks took the ice for an NHL game.
On Wednesday night, the Canucks were back in action as they rolled into Anaheim to face the Ducks. They were without their hottest scorer as Brock Boeser entered the NHL’s COVID protocol on Wednesday afternoon.
Phil Di Giuseppe was also added to the COVID list. The Ducks had a few players of their own missing the game due to COVID, most notably, their second-leading scorer Trevor Zegras.
This was the first game back since the pre-Christmas break for both teams and if Tuesday night’s return to hockey taught us anything, it seemed like it was time to hammer the over on the goal share. That was not going to be the case though, as Thatcher Demko and John Gibson were the two starting goaltenders in the game, and they were both great.
As for the Canucks’ lineup, Alex Chiasson took Brock Boeser’s place alongside J.T. Miller and Tanner Pearson. Jason Dickinson remained with Bo Horvat, and Justin Dowling hit the fourth line with Juho Lammikko and Tyler Motte.
On the back end, Brad Hunt slid into the lineup as he was paired up with Tucker Poolman on the third pairing.
It’s finally time for the Canucks to get back into game action. We won’t waste any more time because there’s hockey to talk about.
It was a quiet first quarter of the period as both teams struggled to put together passes which resulted in a bevy of icing calls early on. The only real scoring chance in the first five minutes came when Nils Höglander attempted a wraparound that was stopped by Gibson.
The highlight of the first five minutes was probably Bruce Boudreau’s mask.
Conor Garland took a holding penalty with 11:29 remaining in the period and the Canucks went to work on their first penalty kill.
The Canucks were aggressive in the neutral zone and had a good shot block from Elias Pettersson that put an end to the Ducks’ first power play attempt.
The Canucks went to the penalty kill again when Miller flipped the puck over the glass and it resulted in a delay of game penalty with 5:50 remaining in the period.
Just seconds after the Canucks killed off the penalty, they were caught on a bad change as Tucker Poolman made an untimely pinch. Sam Carrick came down the left wing, beat Brad Hunt to the net, and then went to the backhand to roof the puck over Demko. 1-0 Ducks.
The remaining few minutes of the period saw the Canucks have a lot of pressure but were unable to find the equalizer and went into the intermission with a one-goal deficit.
Thoughts from the first
Overall, it was a slow period. Both teams struggled in the opening few minutes but seemed to find their footing as the period progressed.
The Canucks trailed after 20 minutes but were not being outplayed and the vibe of the period felt more like a scoreless draw. Aside from the quick break by Carrick, the Ducks didn’t have many scoring chances at even strength. At five-on-five, Anaheim had six scoring chances compared to the Canucks’ nine. A power play or two would have helped jumpstart the Canucks offence in the first period but instead, they found themselves on the penalty kill twice.
It was a good start for the Canucks as they took plenty of shots on Gibson in the opening six minutes of the period. Dickinson set up Horvat for a good scoring chance in front of the net but Horvat’s stick was checked as he stared down a wide-open net.
The Canucks earned their first power play of the game when Ryan Getzlaf took a penalty with 10:38 remaining in the period. Quinn Hughes took a holding call just 42 seconds into the power play and we were set for four-on-four action.
We went back to five-on-five hockey and Conor Garland had a breakaway with defenders right on his tail. He went to the backhand but was stopped by Gibson. The Canucks continued to press Gibson but were unable to get anything past the goaltender.
Garland forced a turnover in the neutral zone and went in on a two-on-one with Pettersson but Gibson was once again there to shut the door on Garland’s shot attempt.
The score stayed the same throughout the second period and we went into the second intermission with the Canucks trailing 1-0.
Thoughts from the second
If was a period that was tilted in the Canucks’ favour as they had 15 shots compared to the Ducks’ eight. They were peppering the Ducks with shots but Gibson stood tall through 40 minutes and forced the Canucks to outscore the Ducks in the third period to receive a positive result in the game.
Garland had an excellent period as he was great at forcing turnovers and had multiple scoring chances of his own in the middle frame. His line and the Horvat line were dominant in the second period and needed more of that effort to come back in this game.
Quinn Hughes made a marvellous read to jump in on the offence during a Ducks line change early in the period. Hughes flew down the left wing and made a perfect pass over to Tanner Pearson, who ripped a wrist shot past Gibson. 1-1 after the Pearson goal.
Podkolzin drew a tripping call with 16:21 remaining in the period and the Canucks went to work on their second power play of the game.
Pettersson had an early chance off of a good Chiasson pass and Hunt wired a one-timer that stunned Gibson and kept him down on the ice for a few extra seconds. The Ducks killed off the penalty but the Canucks moved the puck well and got plenty of scoring chances.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson took a tripping call with 9:14 remaining in the period to give the Ducks a chance to regain the lead. It was an important penalty kill for the Canucks and they were missing one of their most important penalty killers.
Tyler Myers and Luke Schenn spent the entire two minutes on the ice killing the minor penalty and the Canucks bent but didn’t break, keeping it a tie game with six minutes remaining.
The Canucks were all over the Ducks in the final six minutes of the game and had all the momentum in the final stages of the game. Garland and Horvat had chance after chance with Pettersson walking right down Main Street to fire a shot off of a great Garland pass, but Pettersson’s shot hit the tip of Gibson’s shoulder and the game remained tied.
The Canucks outshot the Ducks by a count of 13-7 in the period and a total of 36-23 in the first 60 minutes of the game. The goalies were up to the task and we were off to overtime.
Just 26 seconds into overtime, Miller chipped the puck up the boards, chased down the puck and roofed it over Gibson to give the Canucks a seventh-straight win.
J.T. Miller scored the game-winning goal and made a great play to set up Hughes’ chance to step up and set up Tanner Pearson’s game-tying goal. Miller talked about the pass that he made to Hughes in the postgame media availability.
“When he gives it to me going the other direction, I know he’s moving up the ice,” said Miller. “He’s so smart. He knows how to get their players to turn their back and I was trying to be patient there and let the play open up. I think we knew that play was what we were trying to do. He made the rest of it, he’s really smart.”
Conor Garland had another excellent game. He was forcing turnovers all over the ice and had a 74.7% control of expected goals while he was on the ice. He made great passes without hesitation and had five individual scoring chances of his own.
After shaking off some rust in the opening 20 minutes, the Canucks absolutely dominated the final 40 minutes and 26 seconds. They played well enough to win by two or three goals in the game.
“Our first period wasn’t that strong,” said Boudreau. “Then we got better and better and I thought Gibson had to be at his best. Sometimes all you need is a goal to get you off the snide. The mind is such a strong element when you’re playing any sport.”
The Canucks are back in action on Thursday night against the Los Angeles Kings. With the win tonight, the Canucks are now on the 12th winning streak of seven games or more in their franchise’s history. They have only ever had an eight-game win streak twice in their history.
This team continues to roll under the coaching of Boudreau and there’s only one word needed to explain what Canucks hockey has been like since the changes to the organization…