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I Watched This Game: Canucks steal a point from the Wild but can't steal two

“We were holding on at the end, but we held on at the end.”
The Vancouver Canucks were in tough against a high-scoring Minnesota Wild team on the second half of a back-to-back, but they nearly took away a win in overtime.

Coming off an emotional win over the league-leading Colorado Avalanche the night before, the Vancouver Canucks could be forgiven for having a letdown against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night.

Making it even harder, the Canucks flew from Colorado to Minnesota the night before, heading east into a different time zone, meaning they lost an extra hour of sleep. As a result, they didn’t land in Minnesota until 3 a.m. and didn’t get into their hotel beds until 4 a.m.

That’s a tough bit of scheduling for the Canucks, making this game a difficult task, with fatigue almost certain to play a factor.

“In all my years, I don’t remember a back-to-back where you get in at 4 a.m.,” said Luke Schenn. “That’s a challenging one.”

The Canucks, then, deserve a ton of credit for not just hanging with the Wild, who are one of the highest-scoring teams in the NHL, but competing hard, taking the game to overtime with a game-tying goal in the third period, and coming a goalpost away from winning the game.

Even getting a single point out of this game is an accomplishment but the Canucks are well aware that they needed that extra point in overtime.

“Salvaging a point there feels nice, but…you’d like to get two,” said captain Bo Horvat, adding later, “I thought we did a great job of pouncing on them and getting our legs under us after a long travel day and minimal rest.”

Head coach Bruce Boudreau joked that if he had been offered three out of four points in the back-to-back games, he would have happily taken them but, “once you get into the situation, you want all four points — everybody gets greedy.” Still, he’s not going to be pouting on the plane.

“At this stage of the season, you need those other points, but I can’t be unhappy with the fact that we got one point,” he said.

Moral victories feel a lot better when you at least get a point and that was a big point for the Canucks. 

“To come back in the third period — we didn’t have a lot left in the tank,” said Boudreau, then he dropped a lovely little quote: “We were holding on at the end, but we held on at the end.”

For some reason, that quote got to me. May we all, in holding on at the end, hold on at the end. 

I was holding on at the end and held on at the end when I watched this game.

  • The game started with an unexpected fight between Luke Schenn and Marcus Foligno. It happened to be the fifth time Schenn had fought Foligno — or, rather, the fifth time he had fought a Foligno. He’d previously fought Marcus twice and his brother, Nick, twice. Adding to the family feud, Luke’s brother, Brayden, has also fought Nick once. 
  • “I did [know that],” said Schenn about the oddball statistic with a bit of a grin. “I fought Marcus — I think he was in Buffalo, then once in Minnesota. Then Nick in Ottawa and in Columbus. Must be something with the brothers there. Off the ice, they’re good guys.”
  • The Canucks struck first in the opening five minutes but it started with a failed opportunity. Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser have looked dangerous together since being reunited by Boudreau and they made some more danger off a 3-on-1. Pettersson set up a one-timer for Boeser that Cam Talbot reached out to rob with one of his right toes, likely the hallux.
  • They didn’t stay stymied for long. The third man on the 3-on-1 was Oliver Ekman-Larsson and he chased down the rebound and tried to feed it down low to Boeser. Unfortunately, Jacob Middleton intercepted it. Fortunately, it went off his stick right to Bo Horvat, who was wide open in the slot, and he snapped it home like he was just at a poetry reading.  
  • Horvat now has goals in three straight games, five goals in his last six games, and eight goals in his last nine games. Horvat said it simply: “I want to be one of those reasons why we get in the playoffs.”
  • It was a superb start for the Canucks but it was undone by a nightmare shift by Tyler Myers. He raced back to take a puck from Tanner Pearson, then put his defence partner in danger, sending a pass back through Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s legs, trapping the Canucks in the defensive zone. Kirill Kiprizov picked up the puck and wheeled to the top of the zone, with Myers on his tail. Then Myers just let Kiprizov go, leaving the Wild’s leading scorer wide open to take a pass, walk up the middle of the ice, and pick his spot on Thatcher Demko. 
  • The Wild took the lead early in the second period off a faceoff win by Brad Richardson. On the right side of the defensive zone, the left-handed Richardson won the puck back cleanly and it went right to Demko, who seemed surprised and coughed up a big rebound to Kevin Fiala, who spun around and sent a low-shot five-hole. That’s why it would sure be nice to have a right-handed centre for faceoffs, so that faceoff win could have gone into the sideboards instead of acting like a shot on net.
  • It looked like the Wild had extended their lead to 3-1 on a delayed penalty but an offside challenge by Boudreau and his coaching staff overturned it. It was a big moment — I’m not sure the Canucks could have come back from two goals down in this one but one goal was eminently doable. 
  • The Canucks accidentally shooting on Demko was a bit of a theme. He had to be alert early in the third period when Horvat unexpectedly threw a backhand at the Canucks’ net with two Wild forecheckers bearing down on him. The scorekeepers did not credit Demko with a save, which is fair enough.
  • The Canucks were hanging on in the third period but were able to create some great chances despite getting out-shot 14-to-8. Considering their tired legs, that’s an achievement in itself. 
  • It was a particularly strong game from Vasily Podkolzin and his line with Nic Petan and Alex Chiasson, even if they didn’t score. Perhaps Podkolzin thrived with the heavier style, but Podkolzin had a team-high 7 shot attempts and accounted for two of the Canucks’ four high-danger chances, according to Natural Stat Trick. Shot attempts were 10-to-1 for the Canucks when that line was on the ice at 5-on-5, and Podkolzin had one of the Canucks best chances in the third on a drive to the net, but sent the puck just wide on the backhand.
  • “I thought they played great,” said Horvat of Podkolzin’s line. “They spent most of the night in the offensive zone, which we need… They gave us momentum.”
  • It was the power play that drew the Canucks even. It was a quick goal: Horvat won the faceoff, Hughes gave the puck to Miller, and Miller snapped a shot past Talbot’s glove with Boeser cutting in front of Talbot’s eyes as Miller was releasing the puck. 
  • Let’s just say that Wild coach Dean Evason wasn’t all that happy with the high-sticking call that put the Canucks on that power play. It’s understandable, to be honest — Mats Zuccarello’s stick hit Hughes in the visor and, since visors are transparent, it kind of looked like Zuccarello just waved his stick in front of Hughes’s face. “He didn’t touch him, come on guys,” insisted Evason, before adding some choice words.
  • If it makes Evason feel any better, Hughes was blatantly tripped by Joel Eriksson Ek later in the period and the referees looked the other way. Or rather, they looked right at it and loudly shouted, “No!” as if denying the reality of what they just saw. Toss in the holding on Schenn a moment earlier and it really was just like a playoff game.
  • J.T. Miller, like Hugh Jackman, Mandy Patinkin, Clint Eastwood, and Daniel Radcliffe, has two sides and overtime illustrated both of them. The first is the brilliant, offensive side that can create something out of nothing. Pettersson sent a pass to Hughes, but he got collided with Miller, early giving Kaprisov a breakaway. A quick stick from Miller, however, stole the puck and instead he got some space on the left wing and nearly ended, ringing the puck off the post.
  • The other side of Miller is the one that makes errors in judgement defensively. With Hughes and Pettersson both attacking in deep, it was on Miller to be the last man back. Unfortunately, he recognized too late the danger of Eriksson Ek and, instead of driving back hard to cut him off, took a riskier line to try to pick off the breakaway pass. When that didn’t work, Miller had no chance to catch Eriksson Ek, stopped skating entirely, and watched as Eriksson Ek undressed Demko with a hard deke to the forehand.
  • If you think I’m being too hard on Miller, there’s no possible way that I could be harder on him than he is on himself. Guaranteed, he’s replaying that goal in his mind and thinking of how he could — and should — have played it differently. 
  • In my opinion, he should have played it differently by not hitting the post in the first place. You don’t have to backcheck if you score every time. Hockey is easy.