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I Watched This Game: Podkolzin scores first NHL goal to help Canucks squeak past the Flyers

“We were joking around with him this morning, I told him I thought I had a feeling he was gonna get one tonight.”
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The Vancouver Canucks beat the Philadelphia Flyers 5-4 in the shootout on Friday.

The Vancouver Canucks got their first win of the season on Friday against the Philadelphia Flyers in a game that was essentially the opposite of their game against the Edmonton Oilers.

Instead of clawing back from a two-goal deficit in the third period to force overtime only to lose in the shootout, they gave up a two-goal lead in the third to force overtime only to win in the shootout. As the great philosopher George Lucas once said, “It’s like poetry; it’s sort of — they rhyme.”

The end result: the Canucks have points in both of their games this season and sit, for the moment, in first place in the Pacific Division. 

But forget all that. The most important thing that happened Friday night is that Vasily Podkolzin scored his first career NHL goal. 

Down 1-0 after the first period, the Canucks came out flying in the second. Podkolzin took a pass from Tyler Myers on the right wing, skated into the right faceoff circle, and ripped a wrist shot top corner over the glove of Carter Hart.

“We were joking around with him this morning, I told him I thought I had a feeling he was gonna get one tonight,” said head coach Travis Green. “It’s great to see, it’s such a special moment. It’s something that you never forget”

Podkolzin was ecstatic, screaming, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” like an overzealous Daniel Bryan fan. The moment invoked nostalgic feelings for Elias Pettersson.

“Right when he scored, I remembered my first goal and I can only imagine the joy he felt,” said Pettersson. 

It’s no wonder the goal brought back memories for Pettersson — it was practically the same goal. A left-handed shot going top shelf short side from the right faceoff circle on the rush: the similarities were hard to miss.

It’s only when you watch the goals back-to-back that minor differences stand out, primarily the type of shot. Pettersson shot his on the fly, throwing all his weight over on his left leg to get torque on his stick, allowing him to keep his forward momentum. Podkolzin, on the other hand, did a full weight transfer from his left leg to his right — a more typical wrist shot motion —  which resulted in a heavy shot but forced him to a stop in his skating.

Either way, the end result was the same: a fantastic goal and pure jubilation.

“You see how excited he got, that's a special moment in your career,” said J.T. Miller. “A heck of a shot and we've seen it all the time in practice...I’m super happy for him.”

I was also super happy for him when I watched this game.

  • Aside from Podkolzin’s tally, this entire game was full of bizarre bounces and unusual goals. It started early when the Flyers opened the scoring just after their power play expired. Joel Farabee hammered a one-timer that Thatcher Demko kicked aside. Only, it wasn’t to the side; it was right into Tucker Poolman’s skate and in. With that bank shot, you can call Poolman “Billiardsboy.”
     
  • Podkolzin actually started the game on the top line with Pettersson and Miller. The trio didn’t quite work, so it didn’t even last through the first period, though it’s important to remember this was still just Podkolzin’s second game. In theory, Podkolzin’s size, shot, and playmaking ability could be a fit there in the future once Podkolzin settles in.
     
  • The Flyers dominated the first period, out-shooting the Canucks 14-5, but Demko was fantastic in net, allowing just the one fluke goal. With the Flyers’ controlling the pace of play, it was all the Canucks could do to survive the first period and Demko was the White Mage repeatedly casting his Pulse of Life limit break.  
     
  • The pairing of Tyler Myers and Oliver Ekman-Larsson particularly struggled in the first, repeatedly getting pinned in the defensive zone. At 5-on-5, the Flyers out-shot the Canucks 10-5 in the first period. Shots were 7-1 when Myers and Ekman-Larsson were on the ice at 5-on-5. In other words, when Myers and Ekman-Larsson were not on the ice, the Canucks actually out-shot the Flyers 4-3.
     
  • Fortunately, Myers and Ekman-Larsson turned things around in the second period. Podkolzin’s goal all started with Ekman-Larsson spotting Myers jumping up in the play and hitting him with a crisp breakout pass. Myers weaved through the neutral zone, creating a 3-on-2. He then fed Podkolzin and drove to the net, taking a defender with him to make like Ted Lasso and give Podkolzin space and he didn’t even have to move to London to do it.
     
  • Pettersson made it 2-1 on the power play shortly after but it wasn’t quite the picture-perfect goal Pettersson had in mind. Pettersson took a pass from Miller and leaned into a shot that deflected off Provorov’s shinpads, only to bounce off the lively boards of the Wells Fargo Center,  off Carter Hart’s skate, and in. Pettersson seemed almost embarrassed and Miller gave him a  playful swat to the head for looking so abashed.
  • “Weirdest, luckiest, yeah — call it whatever you want,” said Pettersson. “It was very lucky but every goal counts.”
     
  • That was the second goal of the game to go in off a skate, so how about another one: on a 5-on-3 power play, Miller sent a hard pass to Alex Chiasson in front, but Hart robbed him with his left pad. But then Travis Sanheim tried to clear the rebound and put the puck right off Chiasson’s skate as Hart simultaneously pulled his pad off the left post, allowing the puck to ever-so-slowly slide into the net like a shopping cart into an animal cracker display.  
     
  • The Flyers got one back on a not-great defensive play from Myers. The Chaos Giraffe giveth and the Chaos Giraffe taketh away. Myers followed Cam Atkinson up to the point, but took a step away from his man to try to pick off a pass on the boards. That cost him his inside position on Atkinson, who made a beeline for the net and stung a Farabee pass into the net.
     
  • Hart’s nightmare period continued with another odd bounce off a skate, again his own. Pettersson stole a puck from Keith Yandle along the boards and threw a bad angle shot towards the net. It hit Hart’s skate and sat on the goal line, but Hart had no idea where it was. Instead of holding his post, Hart turned his back to the puck, leaving it open for Miller to poke it in like a sausage into a bagel dog.
     
  • The Canucks honestly played a great third period. They were controlling play, getting a lot of shots, and limiting chances. Maybe they were taking a few too many bad angle shots, perhaps hoping that Hart might give up another soft goal, but they were the better team in the third. Then everything went sideways in the final few minutes.
     
  • “I thought it was about as good a third period you can play a hockey game on the road,” said Miller. “It's so easy to sit back. I thought we took it to them the whole period...I don’t think were great 5-on-5 before the third, so we had a decision to make there — we’re going to go at them.”
     
  • It started with a questionable penalty call on Ekman-Larsson, who swatted at a puck in the air near Travis Konecny’s head and may or may not have also hit Konecny. It was the puck that hit Konecny in the face, but Ekman-Larsson’s stick also hit Konecny in the shoulder on the follow-through. Ekman-Larsson, at least, was rather adamant that he “hit the $%^&ing puck.”
  • How about one more goal off a skate deflection? The Flyers pulled Hart and went 6-on-4 on their power play, setting up a shot for Sean Couturier. Tucker Poolman slid across and blocked it with his skate but it went right to Konecny, who beat the off-angle Demko to make it 4-3.
     
  • Speaking of Konecny, one of the funniest moments was when the Flyers winger dipped into the filmography of Will Ferrell for his on-ice trash talk, saying to Conor Garland, "You're an angry little elf."
 

 

  • Shortly later Konecny's goal, Horvat went for the empty net from his own zone but missed for an icing. Only, Matthew Highmore was speeding towards the puck and arguably beat out the icing — “I thought he beat it,” said Green — but the linesman disagreed. 
     
  • On the subsequent offensive zone faceoff, the Flyers set up a play using the lively boards that gave Pettersson a goal earlier in the game, sending a bank pass to Claude Giroux, who banked the puck in off Demko’s helmet to tie the game. At least it didn’t go in off a skate this time.
     
  • Overtime was lively but inconclusive, with chances both ways but no goals. The most frustrating moment was when Miller set up Pettersson alone in front, only to have Giroux blatantly hook his top hand to take the opportunity away and set up a 2-on-1 rush the other way. That said, Pettersson got another breakaway a moment later and was robbed by Hart, so you can’t say he didn’t have a chance to end the game.
  • “Right when I was getting the puck, I think it was Giroux slashed me over the hands so I couldn’t handle the puck,” said Pettersson. “Didn’t say anything but thought it might have been a penalty. But, I mean, the game is fast, not gonna complain to the refs, they have a tough job.”
     
  • The Canucks made the shootout look easy. Demko stopped both shots he faced, while Pettersson exploited a wide-open glove side and Miller undressed Hart with a casual-looking deke to the forehand. 
  • When asked if he was planning to shoot the whole way, Pettersson said, “Last second, I changed because I saw there was an opening on the low glove side, so I went for that fast when I saw the opening.”
     
  • One last note: Sportsnet colour commentator John Garrett missed this game as he’s quarantining in Edmonton because of COVID protocol. He’s reportedly doing fine — though unhappy to be stuck in Edmonton, I would imagine — but I still wish him all the best. Add ketchup to something you eat today to keep him in your thoughts.