Though three whole Alex Galchenyuk transactions had transpired since the Vancouver Canucks’ (7-11-0) last two games against the Calgary Flames (7-6-1), the results weighed heavily on the team’s mind as they prepared for Monday’s Family Day matchup, the last game in a three-game homestand and the third in a four-game series.
Two games ago, Vancouver dropped their sixth straight decision to bring morale to a low rarely glimpsed in even this rainy market. On Saturday, however, the Canucks ditched the casual wear and then put on a performance that was anything but casual, dominating their opponents in a way that the 3-1 final on the scoreboard belied; a way that had the fanbase dreaming of demons exorcised.
As the home team arrived at Rogers Arena on Monday evening, the civvies remained.
Time would tell if the Canucks would be able to keep it rolling on the ice in a similar fashion.
To the surprise of no one, coach Travis Green rolled with the exact same lineup he did on Saturday, including Thatcher Demko in net.
Jacob Markstrom remained in place at the other end of the ice, but the Flames juggled the lines a little up front, dressing Buddy Robinson and Dominik Simon in place of the injured Mikael Backlund and the scratched Josh Leivo.
And here’s to you, Buddy Robinson.
An early hooking penalty called on Dillon Dube after some nice forechecking by the Antoine Roussel-Brandon Sutter-Adam Gaudette unit, together for their third game in a row, sent the Canucks to the first power play of the evening.
After a couple of failed one-on-four zone entries by the top unit, the second unit hit the ice and immediately generated an odd-man rush that resulted in an offensive zone faceoff. A winger win by Nils Höglander got the puck back to Tyler Myers at the point and then over to Quinn Hughes, back after a couple dozen seconds on the bench. Hughes’ waist-high shot was batted down and past Markstrom by Tanner Pearson to put the Canucks ahead 1-0 a single second after the penalty had expired. A power play goal in everything but name, leaving the second unit still technically off the board, and Pearson’s fifth marker of the season, along with Hughes’ 17th assist.
Before the first frame had hit the halfway mark, the Canucks were back on the man advantage with a Connor Mackey crosschecking minor, though a lengthy stint of Lotto Line six-on-five play came first, making it all the easier for Green to start the second unit this time around.
The top unit got their chance after 47 seconds of uneventful play and an offside, and were immediately able to set up. For the third and then fourth set-play in a row, the Canucks attempted a mid-slot tip against Markstrom, indicating perhaps a new anti-Markstrom strategy from power play coach Newell Brown. Nevertheless, Mackey was able to exit the box before any of those tipped pucks made it into the Calgary net.
As the period entered its second commercial break, the Canucks had again held the Flames to a single shot, though they’d also only registered five of their own.
Johnny Gaudreau took the Flames’ third consecutive penalty when he thwacked Bo Horvat’s stick clean out of his hands and then threw up his hands in apparent disbelief at the easiest call of that ref’s career.
Again, the second unit led the way, and they proceeded to draw yet another penalty, an undisciplined high stick by Mackey on Tanner Pearson.
Predictably, the top unit appeared, and it only took them 20 seconds to set up the good ol’ tic-tac bumper play to Horvat in the slot for an easy toe, past Markstrom for a 2-0 lead and Horvat’s seventh of the year. Brock Boeser and JT Miller picked up the assists, ending a four-game drought for Miller.
More than a minute of Mackey’s minor remained on the clock, but the Canucks were unable to convert.
The fourth line finally got back onto the ice, and managed to make an impact when Jake Virtanen violently slammed Mark Giordano into the boards, earning an appreciative chorus of ooo’s from the imaginary crowd. But their next shift would earn something else.
With less than a minute remaining, Shotgun Jake and the gang got trapped in their own zone under some heavy forechecking by Milan Lucic (ugh) and Sam Bennett. It would be Lucic (ugh) who finished a Rasmus Andersson pass with 25 seconds left in the period, cutting the Canucks’ lead in half and letting more than a little air out of #Canucks Twitter as the two teams skated off after 20 minutes.
A Quinn Hughes hype-piece is always welcome.
So is watching both the Oilers and the Leafs blow leads.
The opening few minutes of the middle frame saw the Canucks still on their heels following the Flames’ late-period turnaround, though they were slowly-but-surely able to settle things down after a little scrambly play from both skaters and goaltender.
A holding penalty taken by Nate Schmidt on Matthew Tkachuk certainly didn’t help, sending the Flames to their first power play of the night. An aggressive penalty kill by the Canucks prevented Calgary’s top unit from getting set-up, and then stifled the second unit effectively, killing all two minutes without a shot against.
It was Vancouver’s fifteenth consecutive kill at home.
Some mischievous playmaking by Höglander earned chances for his lines on consecutive shifts — and the ire of Tkachuk — but the score remained 2-1 as both the period and game reached the midway mark.
But not much further from that.
Horvat fanned on a pass to Hughes at the offensive blueline, springing the Flames on a three-on-one that turned into Elias Lindholm coming in alone on Demko. Lindholm decisively wristed it past Demko to tie the score at 2-2 as Horvat wistfully considered breaking his stick, and then reconsidered.
Consecutive shifts of pressure by the first and third lines won the Canucks back a little momentum, but not a chance of note. A few shifts later, Virtanen landed another big hit, but it was on the ref. At least it came on the fourth line’s best shift of the game thus far.
Inexplicably, Schmidt attempted to pass the puck up the middle from behind his net and past the oncoming Dube. Instead, the puck ricocheted off Dube and then off a Demko still scrambling back into his crease and then into the net.
3-2 Flames, and a third straight Calgary goal precipitated by a Vancouver turnover, though this was obviously a little more egregious than the others, and bordered on an own-goal.
A two-minute tripping minor to Jay Beagle about two minutes later only added to the sense of impending doom.
Fortunately, the Canucks were able to kill the majority of Beagle’s minor, and then an elbow from Lindholm on a vulnerable Tyler Myers sent it to four-on-four to close out the period.
But, as they skated off after 40 minutes, the home team had some catching up to do.
Could they “win da turd” for two games in a row?
Uh…can we pick the Leafs blowing a four-goal lead again?
Anything other than having to hear the word “turnover” for the hundredth time.
The final frame opened with a half-minute of four-on-four and then more than a minute of Canucks power play time, though no goals were scored throughout. Alex Edler nearly tipped a Höglander shot past Markstrom a few seconds after Lindholm exited the box, but the puck sailed wide.
Another dazzling play from Höglander, barrelling off the bench and into the offensive zone, nearly solved Markstrom, and would have presumably brought the fans to their feet, had there been any fans.
After this touched off a solid stint of o-zone pressure from the Canucks, Gaudreau was sent on a breakaway, only to have it cruelly taken away from him by a diving and sprawling Brock Boeser in the defensive play of the game.
The momentum stayed in the Canucks favour as Loui Eriksson drew a hooking call on Mackey, a play followed by a spirited scrum. At one point, Olli Juolevi looked ready to drop the mitts with Lindholm, until Myers casually crosschecked Lindholm to the ice and ended the bout before it could begin.
Virtanen and Tkachuk picked up matching roughing minors out of the exchange, and the Canucks stayed on the power play.
A solid two minutes of pressure from the top unit produced several shot attempts and a couple of impressive line-holds, but no goals.
Shortly after Mackey left the box, Gaudreau finally got that long-awaited breakaway, but Demko was more than ready to turn him aside to keep it within one.
As the period hit its halfway point, the Canucks had moved ahead on the shot-clock, but remained behind on the scoreboard. And then Myers sent the Flames to the man advantage by taking down Gaudreau in front of the net, making Vancouver’s uphill climb just a little uphillier.
Again, though, the penalty killers were on-point, with Demko in particular making a slick cross-crease save on Tkachuk, and they again did their part in keeping it close.
Back to five-on-five, coach Green shortened the bench and gave his top skaters every opportunity to tie it up, and tie it up they would.
When Hughes took a tripping call on Tkachuk approaching the empty net, it led to a little five-on-five goalieless play and a timeout, but it looked as though the Canucks were out of luck. Then, a co-op faceoff win by Horvat and JT Miller with about 30 seconds left got back to Myers at the point and then over to Boeser, who sauntered to the top of the circle and then wired it past Markstrom for the late 3-3 tie which was technically a shorthanded tally.
A further stint of power play time for the Flames accomplished nothing, and this game was headed to overtime.
Hughes was still in the box as overtime began, resulting in a short spell of four-on-three play to open overtime.
But that was all the Flames would need, as Sean Monahan fed Gaudreau on the half-wall for a one-time blast past Demko to win the game 4-3.
The war-room in Toronto initiated an offside review, but that only prolonged the pain for Vancouver fans from another disappointing demise brought on by costly turnovers and ill-timed penalties.
Fancy Stats At A Glance
Gameflow from Canucks vs Calgary February 15, 2021 (courtesy of naturalstattrick.com)
Heatmap from Canucks vs Calgary February 15, 2021 (courtesy of naturalstattrick.com)
Canucks Corsi from Canucks vs Calgary February 15, 2021 (courtesy of naturalstattrick.com)
Even before he scored that late-game tying goal, Boeser was going to make this list. With an assist earlier in the game and a breakaway-saving defensive play, Boeser played a huge role in the Canucks’ success on the ice, and a limited role in their defeat. Boeser had a barely negative Corsi, but all his other metrics were strong, including an Expected Goals rating of 66.33%.
Höglander may not have registered a point, and finished the night a -1, but he was still excellent tonight, and definitely the Canucks’ most exciting forward, if not their best. Höglander consistently drove his line in the right direction and came inches away from scoring or setting up a goal on several occasions. He led the team in multiple analytic categories, including a Corsi of 60.61%.
The Canucks’ elder statesman pulled down 24:03 in ice-time, including 6:17 shorthanded, to pace the team. He was also noticeably active in the play all night, even foraying deep into the offensive zone a couple of times, and finished with a team-high 72.25% Expected Goals rating.
Best Of #Canucks Twitter
Most Vancouver losses of late have been some variant of heartbreaking, embarrassing, or soul-sucking. This one was just frustrating. And maybe that’s a good sign, but it sure doesn’t help much in the immediate aftermath of a game the Canucks probably should have won.
Sure, Boeser’s late tally salvaged a point, but the home team was in control for the majority of this game, and the Flames only stayed in it as long as they did because of a handful of brutal turnovers.
When unforced errors are the only thing standing between your team and victory, that’s going to sting. When it comes on the heels of a streak-snapping win that some hoped would be the start of a big turnaround, it just plain bites.
The Canucks will complete their four-game series with the Flames by travelling to Calgary for a Wednesday night matchup with a 7:00 PM PST start-time. Sportsnet Pacific will carry the broadcast.