Ladies and gentleman, the alien has returned.
Possibly no other player in the NHL has needed a goal more lately than Elias Pettersson. He’d come close on a number of occasions over the last month, but absolutely nothing seemed to bounce his way. In Carolina, he appeared to hit his rock bottom moment on the most unlucky sequence you’d ever seen.
But when you hit rock bottom, the only place left to go is up. And on Sunday against the Capitals the floodgates finally blew wide open in the form of two goals, including the eventual tying marker, in a 4-2 victory over Washington.
“It felt good to contribute, and help the team,” Pettersson said when he spoke to the media post game. “I know what I’m capable of, of course it’s been a slow start for me. It’s a good win for us today, and I’m happy with my two goals today.”
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Pettersson’s pair of goals against the Capitals were no fluke either. The effort required on both were the result of hard work finally paying off for Vancouver’s star player. 43 seconds into the second period, Pettersson and the rest of Canucks Nation took a collective sigh of relief.
Pettersson’s shot from the right faceoff dot didn’t look all that different from some of his other recent scoring attempts (aside from the mid-shot fall). But where a number of Pettersson’s best chances hit the post and bounced in the wrong direction, the puck luck finally found him in DC.
“When I got the puck I was looking for Brock but I saw the d-man cover the ice,” Pettersson said. “So I just tried to shot fake, go around and shoot. And this time it went post and in, so it felt great.”
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If the first goal was due to a perfect shot, the second was thanks to dogged determination.
After Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s initial shot is deflected by Bo Horvat, Pettersson gets two whacks at the puck on Capitals goalie Ilya Samsonov before it drifts into the corner. Pettersson quickly corrals it, flips a sudden backhander off Samsonov’s back and into the net.
“I got the rebound with my skates and I just tried to shoot it back again,” Pettersson said. “It’s a play that doesn’t happen very often but I’m happy it went in.”
For any hockey player dealing with a cold snap on the scoresheet, even an empty net goal can make all the difference in getting them back on track. In Pettersson’s case, he put together his single best performance of the season in a game; a vintage EP40 performance where he put the team on his back in a must-win game and almost single-handedly won them the day.
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His coach, Bruce Boudreau, also noticed glimpses of the player that won the Calder Trophy in 2019. “When he’s got the puck, whether it’s behind the net or at the side of it, he’s always looking for the angle or the advantage,” Boudreau said.
“He wants to be the best and you can see it out there and that’s why he’s working hard right now.”
Perhaps this game was a one-off and there are still parts of the 23 year old’s game that need some fine-tuning to get him back to normalcy. But don’t be surprised if Pettersson’s hard work and his big breakout night in Washington translate back into consistency on the stats sheet through tomorrow’s game in Nashville and far beyond.