On Wednesday night, the Vancouver Canucks hosted the Montreal Canadiens for their home opener.
It was a dandy of a game as the teams went down to the wire before finally deciding a winner in the shootout on a Bo Horvat wrist shot.
After three AHL seasons and 142 games with the Utica Comets, it was time for Jalen Chatfield to make his NHL debut. Travis Green opted to go with Chatfield instead of Olli Juolevi for the home opener as the team came off of a three-game losing streak.
This resulted in the opening night defence pairs being mixed up as Nate Schmidt skated with Tyler Myers and Alex Edler was with Chatfield. The Quinn Hughes and Travis Hamonic pairing was the only duo that was remaining from the previous three games.
Green had been moving around defencemen throughout the season and has often talked about his pairings being fluid in how he deploys them. Certain situations call for more offensive pairings while others call for regular pairings. It’s why you see Hughes with Schmidt and Myers out for offensive zone faceoffs instead of Hamonic.
This looked like the time for Jack Rathbone to me. A young, highly talented defence prospect making his debut in the Canucks’ home opener made a lot of sense. Instead, the coach decided to go with the AHLer who he believes has had a good training camp and plays a quiet defensive game.
It was time for Chatfield’s long-awaited debut. The Canucks were back at home and the Canadiens were coming in with a 2-0-1 record after two wins against the Edmonton Oilers and an overtime loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Carey Price and Braden Holtby got the call to the crease for their respective squads.
This game was the first of three in a row between these two clubs so why waste any more time?
The Canucks went to the power play just 18 seconds into the game when Tyler Myers drew a hooking call.
The Canucks were unable to mount much pressure and Schmidt took a puck off the head to add insult to injury.
Just after the power play expired, Edler fired a shot that was high-sticked by Brandon Sutter into the back of the net. It was immediately called no goal.
Schmidt went to the bench after taking a puck to the head but he was right back on the ice for his next shift.
At the end of the Canucks’ best shift of the period, Pettersson drew a holding penalty and they were back on the power play for a second attempt.
The Canucks scored their first power play goal of the season when Bo Horvat ripped one from the bumper position. His shot went just under the arm of Carey Price and the Canucks were leading 1-0.
Miller and Hughes drew assists on the power play goal.
The Canucks were starting to control possession as the period neared its end. The fourth line of Brandon Sutter, Jay Beagle, and Tyler Motte once again looked good.
Josh Anderson took a penalty when he ran Hughes into the net with 2:54 remaining in the period. The Canucks went to work on their third power play opportunity of the period.
The Canucks were unable to get much going on the power play and they took their one-goal lead into the first intermission.
Just a minute and 37 seconds into the period, a friend turned foe made the Canucks pay on the ice instead of off the ice. Tyler Toffoli walked in all alone after three Canucks went after the puck on one side of the ice. Toffoli came in on the left side and ripped a wrist shot off the bar and in to tie the score up 1-1.
Motte came in with Schmidt on a 2-on-1 and fired the puck through Price to restore the Canucks’ lead. 2-1 Canucks after the Motte goal.
Antoine Roussel took an interference penalty in the offensive zone with 15:10 left in the period. The Canadiens made them pay with a guy they could have paid for, as Toffoli scored his second of the game to tie things up 2-2.
Things were cranking up in the second period and the Canucks were down a man during the ramp-up. Edler was missing from the bench early in the period and the Canucks were playing with five defencemen for a majority of the period.
The Canucks went back to the power play and things were clicking on Wednesday night as Boeser put the Canucks back on top with a great kick pass to himself in front of the net. 3-2 Canucks with under nine minutes remaining.
It was another power play point for Hughes as he set it up with a point shot.
The Canucks earned their fifth power play of the game when Beagle drew a holding penalty with 4:58 left in the second.
The Canadiens killed off the penalty and then went right back at the Canucks when Tomas Tatar came streaking in on Holtby and made a perfect pass to set up former Vancouver Giants star Brendan Gallagher for a tap-in goal. 3-3 tie after the Gallagher goal.
That’s where they left things after 40 minutes.
We were in for one heck of a final frame.
During the intermission, the Canucks reported that Edler did not return to this game.
This meant more ice time for Chatfield and likely close to 10 minutes for Hughes in the third period.
With 17:54 remaining, Josh Anderson flipped the puck over the boards and the Canucks went to the power play thanks to a delay of game call.
The Canucks went tic-tac-BO as soon as they got set up on the power play. Horvat struck from the bumper position once again and the Canucks were up 4-3 with 16:36 remaining.
Play really opened up for a few minutes between the 13-10 minute area. Back and forth scoring chances with the Canucks holding onto a one goal lead had fans on the edge of their couches.
Holtby was making some clutch saves and Price was matching him. Both goalies were under a lot of pressure and the Canadiens were the ones to breakthrough.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi flubbed a spinning puck that founds its way over Holtby’s shoulder. Once again, we were all tied up. 4-4 after the Kotkaniemi goal.
The Canadiens got their first lead of the game when Toffoli struck a third time with 3:41 remaining in the period. 5-4 Canadiens after the Toffoli hat trick goal.
Then just seconds after the goal, Boeser ripped a shot from the point and tied the game at five. Boeser’s goal made it 5-5 with three minutes to go.
Brendan Gallagher almost broke the Canucks’ backs with another last-second goal. Holtby bailed out his team after a giveaway and for the first time this season, we were off to overtime!
Holtby was a busy man during the extra hockey. The Canadiens were firing shots and Holtby was up to the task. There were no whistles in the overtime period. It was back and forth action that every hockey fan can appreciate.
Overtime solved nothing and then we were off to a shootout in what had been an excellent hockey game.
The Canucks shot first.
Pettersson did not score.
Paul Byron did not score.
Miller came in slowly down the left side and then toe dragged his way into the slot before firing it past Price’s glove hand. VAN GOAL!
Jonathan Drouin did not score.
Boeser did not score.
Nick Suzuki faked a wrist hand shot and went to the backhand to bury one on Holtby. MON GOAL!
Horvat zig-zagged his way in before ripping a wrist shot through Price’s five-hole. VAN GOAL!
Toffoli came in and ripped a half slapshot off the post but did not score.
Canucks win 6-5 in a shootout.
Advanced stat tracking from NST was down at 10 pm when I was finishing up the article. No fancies tonight, but check back tomorrow.
Brock Boeser & Bo Horvat: Both scored two goals in this game. Horvat got both his second and third goals of the season on the power play with quick releases from the bumper position. Boeser was clutch when the Canucks needed him, he scored the game-tying goal late in the period and the Canucks needed their stars to shine for the win on Wednesday night. Both Horvat and Boeser had three points in the game and hopefully can spark something for this three-game set against the Canadiens.
This was the type of win the Canucks needed after a three-game losing streak. They had to fight down to the last shift and eventually get the win in the shootout.
Alex Edler left the game early in the second period and did not return to the game. He was ruled out with an upper-body injury and with his absence, Schmidt and Hughes each ended up playing over 27 minutes. Hughes had two points of his own in this game as he now has five assists in five games this season.
Even though four of the five goals came from Horvat and Boeser, it felt like a team win. The defence group was down to five men after Edler left early in the second period and they stepped up and played just good enough to win. The overtime period was electric as there were no whistles in the five-minute frame with back and forth scoring chances like a foosball game at your uncle’s place.
These teams will do it all over again tomorrow!