Lively Canucks run royals ragged
Vancouver keeps Kings on their toes in strong effort punctuating end to eight-game losing streak
Relief has arrived and for the 2018-19 Vancouver Canucks, it indeed smells like victory.
The Canucks broke an eightgame losing streak Saturday night at Staples Center in Los Angeles, beating the Kings 4-2.
For the Canucks, it was an especially impressive win, given they’d played just 24 hours before against the Sharks in San Jose.
But even if they were tired, it didn’t show, as the Canucks did well to keep the Kings to the outside, preventing shots from dangerous areas and making Jacob Markstrom’s life in net relatively easy.
At the other end, the Canucks were persistent. They also took their chances.
Adam Gaudette opened the scoring 5:12 into the second, his first goal in the big leagues, one that came after a quick turnover forced by Nikolay Goldobin.
The Kings tied the game up just two minutes later, Drew Doughty’s power play point shot bouncing in past Markstrom after the puck hit at least two Canucks on its way toward the net.
The Canucks seized the lead at 12:18 of the second, a beautifully executed power play finish for Sam Gagner, at the end of a crisp, quick three-pass sequence.
Matt Luff evened the game up again for the Kings, as he found himself forgotten by the Canucks defence at the far blue line. He raced in alone on Markstrom and deked the Canucks goalie out of his shorts before sliding the puck in the goal.
The game-winner came in the third, a tense frame that saw the Kings push hard to win at home for the first time in more than two weeks.
Elias Pettersson was handed gift of a turnover by Dion Phaneuf, the veteran Kings defenceman firing a breakout pass almost directly on to the stick of Pettersson, who was out at the blue line.
The Alien raced in and wired a shot past Kings goalie Calvin. Tyler Motte sealed the game with a long-distance shorthanded empty-net marker.
Here’s what we learned.
Gaudette’s been a quiet story in his first full season as an NHLer. He started the season in the American Hockey League, but when Jay Beagle broke his arm on the season-opening road trip, it opened the door for last year’s Hobey Baker winner to get an extended run.
Handed fourth line minutes, he’s kept his game pretty tidy.
He’s had chances to score but hadn’t had any luck. You knew that for a guy who’s spent his whole life scoring, it would have been grating a small part of him, even if he would tell you he was just happy to be in the NHL. So when he pulled out as big a fist pump as could on his game-opening goal, his first career NHL goal, you weren’t surprised.
It was a marvellous goal, one that was built by collective effort.
There was the disruptive forecheck from Goldobin, turning the puck over on the side boards.
There was a truly marvellous pass from Jake Virtanen, a patient swat of the puck into the slot, set up perfectly for the onrushing Gaudette to hammer into the net past an outstretched Kings goalie Petersen.
FRENCH FOR WINNING
Sam Gagner’s first week back in the NHL has been very, very good. He’s slotted in well on Bo Horvat’s wing, and he’s helped solidify the first power play unit.
That he scored on a second period power play was really no surprise.
It was a perfect finish of a quick passing sequence, from Alex Edler up top, through Elias Pettersson on the right wing, down to Bo Horvat who had smartly swung down below the goal-line and then first-timed the pass to Gagner, who was on the door step.
It was a goal that power plays diagram up. It couldn’t have been executed better.
One of the things the Canucks insisted they needed to cut down on after Friday’s 4-0 loss to the Sharks was the number of penalties they’d been taking.
On Friday, they took six. On Saturday, four.
Now, they still conceded a power-play goal and nearly another which rang off the post instead, but the point was well taken.
As Michael Del Zotto pointed out Friday, it’s awfully hard to win when you give up three power-play goals, as they did against the Sharks.
Job one was simply allow fewer opportunities.
It was a surprise to hear Travis Green announce pregame that Troy Stecher was going to be a healthy scratch.
The Richmond defenceman has been a solid player for the Canucks this season. Green said it wasn’t about Stecher; he just wanted to get Alex Biega into a game.
The veteran blueliner skated alongside Alex Edler, who was playing his first game in a month after recovering from a shoulder injury.