It may not have been The Big Game, but this mid-season meeting between the Vancouver Canucks and Carolina Hurricanes was still pretty super.
The two teams traded blows throughout the game, punching and counter-punching with neither team able to build up more than a one-goal lead. It’s only fitting that such an evenly-matched, hard-fought game go to overtime; it was less fitting that it went to a shootout, which provided a limp anticlimactic finish to such an entertaining game.
Perhaps it’s all a matter of perspective. For Hurricanes fans, they got to see Justin Williams, who just made his return to the team a week ago, score the game-winning goal in the shootout, the latest clutch moment in a long career full of them. Then they got to watch the latest edition of the Storm Surge, their post-game victory celebration, pay homage to the Super Bowl.
Canucks fans got to watch one nifty shootout move by Elias Pettersson, his third goal of the game, but then two lacklustre attempts by J.T. Miller and Bo Horvat. Then the Sportsnet broadcast cut off the Storm Surge, for those who were curious to see what the Hurricanes were going to do.
It was a letdown.
Big picture, the Canucks didn’t continue their winning streak, but still picked up a point. That means they’ll maintain a good gap between themselves and the second-place Edmonton Oilers in the Pacific Division. More importantly, it gives them a nine-point cushion between themselves and the ninth in the West Chicago Blackhawks; a lot would have to go wrong for the Canucks to fall all the way out of the playoffs.
The Canucks just kept rolling when I watched this game.
Brock Boeser was back on the first line to start the game after some great shifts from the reunited Lotto Line on Saturday. The line was dominant for long stretches and Boeser and Pettersson combined for 11 shots on goal, while Miller played a key role in setting up all three Canucks goals despite finishing with just one point, an assist.
After some nice early saves by Thatcher Demko, the Canucks opened the scoring. Miller gained the zone down the left wing, then smartly cut back along the boards and fed Quinn Hughes at the point. He zipped the puck along the blue line to Chris Tanev, whose shot hit Pettersson in the skate. Pettersson spun quickly and used his entire body to shoot, launching both the puck and himself into the air. Call his fade-away jump shot a tribute to Kobe.
The refs made a right hash of this game, missing not just little trips and hooks, but dangerous hits from behind into the boards and an elbow to the face of Quinn Hughes. They further earned the ire of Hurricanes’ fans when they failed to blow the whistle on two occasions where players were injured, including a scary-looking wrist injury to Brett Pesce, who was cut by a puck and had blood pouring down his hand as he rushed from the ice. Not a banner night for veteran officials Dan O’Rourke and Dean Morton.
The Canucks’ power play is in a slump and it may have cost them this game. Even one goal on one of their four power plays would have made the difference, but the power play seems so discombobulated right now. We know how good they can be, but perhaps their feast or famine power play is catching up to them.
The Hurricanes tied the game early in the second, seemingly catching the Canucks flat-footed coming out of the first intermission. Off a Hurricanes rush, Pettersson nearly nicked the puck to spring a rush the other way, but it got through to Nino Niederreiter, who caught Demko off-guard with a spinning backhand.
- Then the Hurricanes took the lead after hemming the Canucks into their own zone. Jaccob Slavin’s point shot hit Warren “McLovin” Foegele in front and the puck landed right on Sebastian Aho’s stick. Demko, a little over-aggressive on the initial shot, couldn’t recover to stop Aho.
- Demko got the best of Aho later in the second period, however, with a key save on a short-handed breakaway. Aho tried to open up the five-hole with a deke to the backhand, but Demko kept his stick in the hole like a smart golfer.
That save proved crucial, as the Canucks tied the game a minute later. Miller made the most of a broken stick for Slavin, darting past him into the Hurricanes zone, then set up Oscar Fantenberg in front of the net. He patiently held the puck, then sent a backhand on net that snuck through Reimer and deflected off Brandon Sutter out to Tyler Myers in the slot. He had a wide-open net, but put it just under the bar anyway, which, to be fair, is still a low shot for someone his height.
Carolina kept coming in the third period, taking the lead five minutes in. Perhaps offended after Harman Dayal suggested Hughes was the best player from the 2018 draft, Andrei Svechnikov burned Hughes on the outside, then beat Demko with a sick shot after a quick move to the forehand.
- Pettersson wouldn’t let that lead stand. He gave the puck to Miller behind the net, then got set up in an unusual shooting position: on the goal line, 20 feet from the net. Miller sent him the puck and Pettersson’s one-timer beat Reimer from the seemingly-impossible angle. I mean, you can’t leave Pettersson wide open in a prime shooting area like that.
- That sent the game to overtime, where Demko delivered one more enormous save. It looked like a sure goal for Teuvo Teravainen, but Demko stretched across his blocker and somehow got a piece of it. That’s the biggest save since Gandalf and the Rohirrim arrived at Helm’s Deep.
Unfortunately, the Canucks couldn’t muster much in the shootout. Pettersson delivered with a lovely move to the forehand that we’ve seen from him several times now, but Miller and Horvat both tried a slow, weaving approach that didn’t faze Reimer, who stuck with both of them for a pair of easy stops.
- Meanwhile, Teravainen got his revenge with a slick finish and Williams sealed the game with a wicked wrist shot past Demko’s blocker. The win moves the Hurricanes into playoff position, but only just barely. Their record would have them third in the Western Conference; in the East, they’re barely eighth.