Saturday night marked yet another night where Alex Chiasson proved his value to the Vancouver Canucks — but more on that later.
It’s Saturday night, and it’s hockey night as the Canucks look to continue getting Ws, this time, against the San Jose Sharks.
Here’s how the Canucks lined up:
Thatcher Demko started in goal for the Canucks with Kaapo Kahkonen lining up opposite him for the Sharks.
Let’s do this!
After some sustained pressure early, Jason Dickinson moved in on an odd man rush and neatly tucked the puck past Kahkonen to make it 1-0 Canucks.
On the play, Ryan Merkley took a hit from Kyle Burroughs that had him woozy. The 21-year-old defenceman was sprawled on the ice and stumbled back down onto his stomach after trying to get to his feet.
It was a tough scene, and it was one that Tyler Myers clearly hated to see, as after the goal had gone in, he hopped over the boards to try to assist the injured Sharks player.
Shortly after the goal, Rudolfs Balcers was called for tripping and gave the Canucks the first power play of the game, which they failed to convert on.
Should’ve had Jason Dickinson out there.
Following the conclusion of the power play, Will Lockwood threw a big hit on Timo Meier and answered the bell after Noah Gregor challenged him to fight.
There was more rough stuff, as Vasily Podkolzin got into a skirmish with Timo Meier but was assessed the only penalty on the play. Two minutes for cross-checking — Sharks to the power play.
Although this game was just over six minutes old, there was a LOT going on, folks.
J.T. Miller took a slashing penalty, and at 5-on-3, Tyler Myers made a mad-dash into the Sharks’ end and played keep away for a bit.
Unfortunately, the Sharks came the other way and took advantage of their strength in numbers.
Tomas Hertl tapped home a loose puck after a rebound went off Demko and tied this game at 1-1.
At 5-on-4, the Canucks dominated the Sharks despite being shorthanded, and had a number of chances, including a hard wrister on Kahkonen from J.T. Miller just seconds after he stepped out of the box.
There was more rough stuff as Conor Garland baited Brent Burns into taking a roughing penalty that the Sharks defenceman heavily disagreed with.
The Sharks killed off the penalty, and with the shot total reading 12-8 just over halfway into the period, we were back at even strength.
Bo Horvat drew a penalty after Mario Ferraro hauled him down in the Canucks’ end.
ANOTHER. POWER. PLAY.
The highlight of the power play was a J.T. Miller f-bomb that rang through the walls of Rogers Arena.
Literally the second the Sharks’ penalty expired, Nic Petan took a tripping penalty of his own and this was quickly becoming the first period that no one was truly sure would ever end.
Eventually, it did, and the Canucks entered the second period tied at one.
Conor Garland broke his goal-scoring slump five minutes into the second, and Canucks fans everywhere rejoiced.
Garland hustled the puck out of the Canucks’ end to create a 2-on-1 rush chance with Miller dashing to join him. Garland opened up his hips for a split-second to give the impression he was going to pass, then seemingly just as fast, let go of a snap shot that beat Kahkonen short side.
Jonathan Dahlen took a tripping penalty shortly after the goal and gave the Canucks an opportunity to pull ahead even further.
The Canucks couldn’t convert, and this game remained a lot closer than it probably should have been.
As if he was asking the Canucks to take a two-goal lead, Noah Gregor took a holding penalty and sent the Canucks back to the man-advantage with just under nine minutes remaining in the second.
Elias Pettersson walked in from the circle to Kahkonen’s left and wired a wrist shot that caught the outside of the post, and that would be the Canucks’ best chance of the power play — perhaps their best chance of the period, even.
With just over a minute remaining in the second, the Sharks tied the game after Nick Bonino tipped home his 11th of the season on a shot Demko likely never even saw.
Will Lockwood took an interference penalty with 56 seconds remaining in the second, but just 16 seconds into the power play, Timo Meier hooked J.T. Miller and was assessed a minor penalty for his troubles.
These two teams headed for the third tied at two apiece.
Back at even strength, Alex Chiasson continued his hot streak, scoring his third goal in the last two games when he received a pass from Bo Horvat and ripped it home to make it 3-2 Canucks early in the third.
Timo Meier cross-checked Brad Richardson in front of the Canucks’ bench from behind and was sent back to the box, giving the Canucks another opportunity to boost their lead.
The Canucks didn’t convert, and once again, this game remained a lot closer than it probably should have been.
“We didn’t play our best game,” said Bruce Boudreau post game. “But we sort of grinded it out, found a way. and got great goaltending.”
The Canucks refused to turtle and kept the pressure up on the Sharks as time winded down.
With over two minutes remaining, the Sharks pulled the goalie and almost immediately, Tyler Myers almost pulled off a hail mary pass into the empty cage.
Instead, it was icing and the Canucks were back defending a lead late.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson blocked shots galore late, and with 40 seconds left, Myers was called for a cross-checking penalty in front of the Canucks’ goal after a whistle, and thankfully, the Canucks managed to kill off the remaining 38 seconds of the game and come away with the victory.
Luke Schenn even pulled off a buzzer-beater on the empty net. 4-2 Canucks final.
We didn’t want to call it “Top Performer” tonight, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t at least point out the effort Vasily Podkolzin turned in tonight.
He didn’t get on the scoresheet, but he was involved all over the ice and looked like a dangerous player all night long.
“He played really good,” said Boudreau. “He was stickhandling, making moves, passes, and I think had a little bit of bad luck. I mean, this stuff next year will be going in the net for him, but he’s certainly gaining a lot of confidence and I’m getting a lot of confidence in him.”
As multiple players said tonight, the Canucks “got the job done” in this one.
It wasn’t pretty, and it didn’t exactly make the Canucks look like a team capable of going on any sort of run, but as winners of their last three, the team is set on just taking things one game at a time and trying to control what they can control.
At morning skate today, Boudreau recounted his time behind the Washington Capitals’ bench when they made the postseason after winning 11 of their last 12 games in 2007-08, and spoke about bringing that experience to the Canucks’ locker room.
“That same year, we had to win the last seven, and we won the last seven. So anything is possible,” Boudreau said. “You never give up and you go as hard as you can for as long as you can. And that’s where we’re at.”
“We’re just gonna go and we’ll be a tough out for any team that plays us for the rest of the year.”
Tonight, they were certainly a tough out for the Sharks, as this was a gritty game in which the Sharks never really appeared to take control of — even if it was much closer than it should have been.
The Canucks will close out their season series with the Golden Knights Tuesday night when Vegas visits Vancouver.
The math isn’t in their favour but the team certainly isn’t giving up hope as they look to just keep taking it one game at a time and try to make things as interesting as possible.