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IWTG: Canucks defuse the Blues with thrilling overtime win in Game 2

This game had everything: fishy officiating, Bo Horvat did that, and defensive hero Elias Pettersson.
graphic: Dan Toulgoet and Freepik

You’re an NHL goaltender in Stanley Cup Playoffs. It’s overtime and the game is on the line. The puck is on an opponent’s stick, but instead of confidently staring him down as he shoots the puck, you’re not even in the crease. You’ve completely lost your net and are scrambling wildly on your hands and knees, desperately trying to get back as the puck comes off his stick towards the empty net...

Then you wake up in a cold sweat. It was just a dream. It wasn’t real.

But that nightmare situation was all too real for Jacob Markstrom on Friday night in Edmonton. A sudden 2-on-1 down low led to a desperation save for Markstrom on David Perron, as Markstrom stacked the pads to save a goal. That left him a good five feet out of his crease as a wild scramble ensued around his goal.

“It’s not very good thoughts,” said Markstrom about what goes through a goaltender’s mind in that moment. “It’s half-panic mode… You just want to get back in your net, it’s not a good feeling when you’re out there and the puck gets behind you.”

As Markstrom tried to scramble back, tracking the puck as it bounced around, his teammates crashed the crease. The puck came to Ryan O’Reilly in the crease, but in the same way that O’Reilly has shut down Elias Pettersson at even-strength all series, Pettersson shut him down, knocking the puck off O’Reilly’s stick.

The panic wasn’t over yet. Perron got the puck on his backhand with the net still wide open. Markstrom dove back, but once again Pettersson made the save, stacking the pads like Kirk McLean.

“To be honest, you almost feel like just closing your eyes and hopefully you don’t hear someone celebrating when it gets like that,” said head coach Travis Green.

“Marky first made a good save,” said Pettersson, not wanting to sell Markstrom short on the initial stop. “I saw the puck, I just tried to clear it. They still had the puck and I was just trying to cover the ice. It hit me again and we got the puck out and cleared iit. 

“All of us just trying to play hard defence and I’m happy I got the stop there, but I know all my teammates would put their body on the line there.”

It’s true. While Pettersson was the hero in that moment, Brock Boeser was also lined up to block Perron’s shot and Quinn Hughes was also in the crease, blocking a centring pass a moment earlier. 

“I think we had four guys in the crease, they did a great job and bailed me out when I was out of position,” said Markstrom. 

Canucks head coach Travis Green frequently talks about buy-in, and it’s clear that everyone in the lineup has fully bought in.

“Our guys are willing to sacrifice, they’ve shown it, they had a lot of blocks again tonight,” said Green. “And it’s not just the guys on the penalty kill, it’s anyone. You see Petey go down to block a shot like that, I think that’s bleeding through our team: that sacrifice, that resiliency that you need to have. Again, every game’s a teaching moment for our group and they passed a hard test tonight.”

And they passed that test while I watched this game.

  • Bo Horvat had a signature performance in Game 1, but apparently he’s not tired of signing his autograph, because his name was once again all over Game 2. Not only did he open and close the scoring with two brilliant goals, he also blocked three shots and went 20-for-29 in the faceoff circle, a very nice 69% winning percentage.
  • Horvat’s opening goal was a toe-drag masterclass. 10 seconds into a Blues power play, Horvat picked up a loose puck caused by a Chris Tanev pokecheck and was off to the races. Brayden Schenn moved to catch him in the neutral zone, but Horvat faked inside, then dragged the puck past him. Then, seeing a forward back defending, Horvat charged in 1-on-1, powering to the middle, then dragging the puck back to the outside as Jaden Schwartz turned on his skates. All that was left was Jordan Binnington, who was no match for Horvat’s move to the forehand.
  • The goal was so good that veteran play-by-play caller Chris Cuthbert was lost for words, something pretty uncommon in his profession. All he could say was “Bo Horvat did that!” in sheer surprise.
  • The goal meant Horvat had already scored in every situation — 5-on-5, power play, and shorthanded — in this series. He’s excelling in literally every facet of the game, and he would add another goal in yet another situation before the game was done.
  • Early in the second period, it looked like the Canucks had taken a 2-0 lead. J.T. Miller came out of the penalty box right as Oscar Fantenberg lofted the puck out of the Canucks’ zone, giving Miller a clear cut breakaway from the blue line in. He dangled and delivered a goal, but iit was quickly overturned on a coach’s challenge: Miller failed to drag his trailing skate as he entered the zone and was ruled offside. Miller evidently needs some drag lessons from Brooke Lynn Hytes.
  • With the goal overturned — and therefore no shot on goal recorded — the Canucks didn’t get a single shot on goal in the first 11 minutes of the second period. The Blues were calling and the Canucks didn’t know what to do with those tossed salads and scrambled eggs. Markstrom, however, had them pegged and kept the Canucks in the lead.
  • The Canucks’ second power play unit has struggled so far in the postseason, but Newell Brown came up with a solution: don’t use the entire second unit. Horvat and Miller changed for Jake Virtanen and Tanner Pearson, but Pettersson, Hughes, and Boeser all stayed on from the first unit and, together, they made some magic. Pettersson stepped down the left boards and floated a picture-perfect saucer pass to Pearson, who punched in his first goal of the series. 
  • Perhaps Pettersson, Boeser, and Hughes stayed on the ice because they were completely fresh. With the Canucks getting into penalty trouble early in the second, their ice time was a little more limited than usual. “I don’t think I felt like I was really in the game tonight, to be honest,” admitted Hughes. “It’s definitely a little bit challenging sometimes when you’re sitting for five or six minutes and then you’ve got to get your legs going, but that’ll happen once in a while.”
  • Canucks fans are rarely happy with officiating and they were given ample opportunity to voice their displeasure, albeit not in the arena, of course. The most frustrating moment came when Sammy Blais hit Brandon Sutter in the numbers, leading to a scrum along the boards. Inexplicably, the Blues ended up on the power play, with Jay Beagle getting a double minor for roughing. At the very least, you’d expect the penalties to even out, with even Blues beat writers expressing their surprise.
  • O’Reilly found some room on the subsequent power play and sniped the 2-1 goal past Markstrom’s blocker, which only made the Canucks feel more aggrieved. When asked if he got an explanation of why the Blues got a power play, Green managed to avoid risking a fine like that received by Rod Brind’Amour for his complaints about the officiating, but was still quite blunt: “I didn’t get an explanation on any calls tonight.”
  • Things continued to get nasty and Tyler Myers paid the price. Schenn, pursuing Myers on the forecheck, shoved from behind, sending the towering defenceman crashing hard into the boards. Myers writhed on the ice before leaving under his own strength and did not return to the game. 
  • It was a tough break for Myers, who was having a bounceback game after some early struggles this postseason. His time was split between partners Hughes and Oscar Fantenberg, and he was thriving alongside Hughes early on. There was no update on Myers’ condition after the game. If he’s unable to play, Jordie Benn might slot into the lineup on his off side or the Canucks could turn to Brogan Rafferty.
  • Perron has been a thorn in the Canucks’ side early in this series, but he got a little too thorny in the second period, knocking down Pettersson away from the puck in the neutral zone. Like Matthew Patel, Pettersson made him pay for his insolence, and didn’t even get right-hooked into pocket change afterwards. 
  • Off the zone entry on the power play, Pettersson wound up in an unusual position: net-front presence. Boeser, from Pettersson’s usual stomping grounds at the top of the right faceoff circle, whipped a shot on net. The rebound popped up in the air and Pettersson bunted it into the net with the hand-eye coordination he honed while juggling on a unicycle.
  • Despite the two-point night, Pettersson was once again kept completely quiet at even strength. Both his points came on the power play, but when he was on the ice against O’Reilly, the Canucks didn’t register a single shot on goal, just like in Game 1. That matchup has gone the Blues’ way, but the Canucks might be able to get Pettersson a more favourable matchup with the last change in the next two “home” game in the Edmonton bubble.
  • “That’s a matchup that they wanted,” said Green. “That’s a line that plays every top line in the league. A line that’s won a Stanley Cup. You’re not going to get a much harder matchup than that. It’s been two games where [Pettersson’s] line hasn’t created a lot 5-on-5, but they’ve done a lot of damage on the power play. That’s part of the learning and growth with young players. I’ve got a lot of faith in them, they’re going to be fine. We’ll see what we decide to do next game.”
  • The Blues clawed their way back in the third period, again with a little (unintentional) assistance from the officials. With the puck in the defensive zone, Edler got hit with a high stick by Robert Thomas. Expecting a call, Edler was momentarily disoriented, and gave the puck away to Sammy Blais, who burst in on Markstrom and beat him with a wicked move to the backhand.
  • Then, with just 5.5 seconds left, the Blues tied the game 3-3. It seemed unthinkable and, for a moment, it was: the referees waved the goal off for a high stick, as it looked like Perron’s stick was above the crossbar when it deflected Alex Pietrangelo’s point shot. On video review, despite seemingly scant evidence, the call on the ice was overturned, with Schwartz credited for the goal as it nicked his knee on the way in. 
  • Pettersson’s defining moment of the game wasn’t his pretty pass to Pearson or his impressive hand-eye coordination on his goal. It was the game-saving play he made in the crease in overtime. As much as he’s lauded for his offensive game, Pettersson is a complete player, as responsible in the defensive zone as he is exciting in the offensive zone. 
  • Pettersson’s defensive play allowed for the thrilling conclusion. Hughes stole the puck from Vladimir Tarasenko down low and sent a brilliant bank pass up the boards to Horvat, who swept in on goal and caught Binnington off guard with a quick snap shot that snuck under the goaltender’s stick and went through the legs. The Canucks were targeting Binnington’s blocker all game: did he cheat his blocker up in anticipation of the blocker side shot, lifting his stick infinitesimally off the ice?
  • Hughes mind processed the situation quickly as he came out with the puck down low: “I don’t know who the D was, I think it was [Vince] Dunn, but he was in the middle, not too much on the boards, and especially him being a leftie, I thought it would be hard for him to get that pass.” It was.
  • The capper on the goal: Hughes ducking a hit from Tyler Bozak after making the pass, then just casually lying on his stomach to watch Horvat score the winner, then just as casually getting up, leaning over to Bozak and saying what appeared to be, “Good game.” As any longtime gamer knows, “gg” is the most devastating thing you can say after ripping an opponent’s heart out.
  • gg, Blues.