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I Watched This Game: Canucks cruise to feel-good win over last-place Senators

For just the second time this season, the Vancouver Canucks have won two games in a row. It’s sobering when put that way.
The Vancouver Canucks easily dispatched the Ottawa Senators by a score of 6-2.

For just the second time this season, the Vancouver Canucks have won two games in a row.

It’s sobering when put that way. The Canucks’ few wins this season have been so scattershot that it’s been tough to maintain any sort of positive momentum. Ending off this road trip with a pair of wins has to feel good after failing to win in some strong performances to kick off the trip.

“I think it does a lot,” saaid head coach Travis Green. “It kind of validates the way our team played in the two losses before and when you’re talking to your team and telling them to believe and stay with it, it’s nice to see them get the results.”

It was easy to be cynical about their win over the Montreal Canadiens, a one-goal victory over a dreadful team that required some late-game heroics from Thatcher Demko. 

It's a lot easier to be positive about Wednesday’s win over the Ottawa Senators.

If you're a team in the basement that wants to believe that you’re better than your record indicates, you better beat the last-place team in the league convincingly. The Canucks did exactly that, running roughshod over the Senators — they outplayed them, outshot them, and outscored them by a wide margin.

“We were due for one of those games,” said Bo Horvat. “We were working hard and guys were getting their chances and we were outplaying teams and to finally get rewarded for it feels good.”

Even if this was a win over the worst team in the NHL, it can still help build confidence and maybe that can translate into wins against teams that are actually bound for the playoffs.

“When guys get on the scoresheet, it builds a little confidence,” said Luke Schenn, who scored his first goal as a Canuck in fine fashion. “Hopefully, guys can carry that momentum and guys feel a little better about themselves.”

Horvat, at least, is confident that things are about to break the Canucks’ way.

“I’d be a lot more worried if we weren’t getting our chances. Everybody’s getting their chances — [Brock Boeser] could’ve had three again tonight,” saaid Horvat. “Eventually, the floodgates are gonna open and, thankfully, a couple of us got one tonight, Petey got one the other night — Boes’s is going to come here soon.”

At the same time, Horvat also channelled a bit of a Han Solo — “Don’t get cocky” — as he looked ahead.

“We can't get too complacent with it,” he said. “We can't think it's going to be easy now, going forward. We worked for those points and we worked for those wins and to get our chances. We've got to keep doing that from here on out.”

If the Canucks can win their next game, it’ll be their first three-game winning streak of the season. Now that will be cause for celebration. Ironic, passive-aggressive celebration for some, but celebration nonetheless.

It felt good to be positive for a little bit when I watched this game.

  • Conor Garland utterly dominated this game. Not only did he have two great assists, he also had five shots on goal, drew two penalties, and was a beast in puck possession. Shot attempts were 20-2 and shots on goal were 11-0 for the Canucks when Garland was on the ice at 5-on-5. The Senators had no answer for the Whirling Dervish of Scituate.
  • Garland set up the opening goal on his first shift. He put Victor Mete in the spin cycle down low, then fed Tanner Pearson in front for the finish. Pearson put the puck past Filip Gustavsson with the casual authority of a man in a hi-vis vest with a clipboard.  
  • This was Adam Gaudette’s first game against his former team since he was traded. He was heavily involved early in the game, albeit not always positively for his new team. When Pearson finished off Garland’s pass to open the scoring, it was Gaudette who was meant to be covering him but instead let him skate unimpeded to the front of the net, probably because of the aforementioned hi-vis vest and clipboard.
  • Gaudette got one back on the power play. Set up at the left faceoff circle — his favourite spot in college — Gaudette one-timed home a slick feed by Connor Brown through the slot, with Tyler Myers and Tucker Poolman unable to take away the passing lane.
  • To the credit of Myers and Poolman, as well as the rest of the penalty killers, the Canucks killed off four more Senators power plays before the end of the night, including a minute-long 5-on-3 killed off entirely by Myers, Schenn, and J.T. Miller. The penalty kill may have exactly one kudo. 
  • Gaudette was at fault again on the Canucks’ second goal, as he carried the puck into danger in the slot in his own zone. Garland, Kyle Burroughs, and Tyler Motte teamed up to strip Gaudette of the puck, then Garland made a beautiful pass — a spin pass, naturally — to Motte, who buried the puck with the authority of the guy in charge of the guys with the hi-vis vests and clipboards.
  • There were a lot of penalties in this game but not all of them were deserved. I honestly have no idea how Brady Tkachuk got an interference penalty for steamrolling his best friend, Quinn Hughes, who was literally playing the puck as Tkachuk hit him. That’s not interference, that’s just a hit.
  • Just like when Brady would steamroller Quinn when they were kids at a sleepover, getting steamrolled woke Quinn up. He finished the game with four assists, a first in his NHL career, and is now tied for third in scoring among NHL defencemen, just two points behind John Carlson and Adam Fox.
  • Schenn gave the Canucks the 3-1 lead with a legitimately brilliant goal at 4-on-4. Miller won the faceoff back to Hughes, while Boeser looped up to the point, taking two defenders with him, that freed up Schenn to charge to the net, make a power move to his forehand, and roof the puck past Gustavsson. That did not look like the play of a defenceman with five goals in his last five seasons.
  • Look at those happy faces. Must be nice.
  • “Usually I’m checking to see whose shin pad it went off of before it went in,” said Schenn about his usual reaction to scoring a goal.
  • An altercation between Nils Höglander and Tim Stützle at the Canucks bench —  likely over whose umlaut looked better — led to more 4-on-4 hockey. Hughes slalomed into the offensive zone, then dropped the puck to Horvat, who placed the puck into the top corner as if that’s where it belonged the entire time, like the final piece of a puzzle: perfect fit.
  • Alex Chiasson made it 5-1 on the power play a few minutes later. Hughes handed the puck off to Miller and his shot ramped up Nick Holden’s stick in front to sneak through Gustavsson. With the puck sitting in the crease, Chiasson had literally the entire net to shoot at from a foot away. He did not miss.
  • Brady Tkachuk scored to make it 5-2. It was a weird, broken play off a weird, broken rush and I’m not going to dwell on it.
  • Miller put the icing on a delicious win cake with a McDavid-esque solo dash on the power play. After he was forced out of the zone, Miller looped back to his own zone to get the puck, then picked up speed to dart right through three penalty killers then made a nifty deke to the forehand with some quick hands to tuck the puck around Gustavsson for the 6-2 goal.
  • That’s phenomenal.