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Five Takeaways: Sloppy Canucks Lose Lead and Game in Vegas

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The Vegas Golden Knights celebrate one of their seven goals against the Vancouver Canucks.

Final Score: Vegas Golden Knights 7, Vancouver Canucks 4

What started as a delightfully effective road game turned into a mess. The Vancouver Canucks had an early 2-0 lead and had the big, home crowd at “the Fortress” in Las Vegas sitting on it’s hands. Just where you want things. Once the penalty parade began, whether the calls were justified or not, the whole evening deteriorated.

A cohort out east, having tuned in to the game and having watched about five minutes of the second period texted me: “Wow, the Canucks are a structural mess”.

OMG – No more “Groundhog Day” …

For just the third time all season, the Vancouver Canucks scored first, and then they scored again before the Vegas Golden Knights answered. JT Miller tallied his team leading 7th goal of the season at the 3:09 mark, on a rush, going five-hole on VGK goalie Robin Lehner. Just 2:47 later Tanner Pearson redirected one past Lehner for a two-nothing Canucks lead.

Just when one thought the Canucks might sail into the dressing room feeling pretty good about their efforts, they ran into penalty trouble. Oliver Ekman-Larsson took exception to a Brayden McNabb hit on Vasily Podkolzin and picked up an extra two minutes for roughing at 18:43 of the 1st period. Justin Bailey then went for hooking at 19:09 and the Golden Knights scored before the period was over.

The Canucks had a lead after a first period for just the second time all season.

Vegas still had 1:10 remaining on a 5-on-4 power play when the second period started but they failed to score.

Breaking Down a Couple Goals

Can’t complain about Vegas’s first one. It came on that 5-on-3 power play late in the 1st period to put them on the board going to the first intermission. One can complain about the fact the Canucks had to be on the penalty kill, but the goal itself was unstoppable for goalie Thatcher Demko.

After the intermission, two five-on-five mistakes cost the Canucks this game as it swung things in Vegas’s favour during the first half of the second period.

The VGK goal that tied things at 2-2 was off a Canucks turnover. Nils Höglander, who was otherwise excellent, fanned on a pass leaving his zone. With the Canucks moving up ice and one player changing, Vegas fired it back to their own blueline for a very quick re-group. Vegas D-man Alex Pietrangelo took a look, fired a long outlet and caught the Canucks D flat-footed. In the case of Madison Bowey, playing his first NHL game this season and just his third since two seasons ago, remained well out of position. The Golden Knights were suddenly in behind the D on a 3-on-1, allowing Reilly Smith to score on a wicked wrister.

Bowey had a tough night all around. The Canucks were put in a difficult situation coming into this game, missing three right-shot defencemen from the line-up.

Five minutes and one second later, Bo Horvat’s poor outlet pass, a turnover essentially, was turned right around and ended up in the back of his net. It was a D-zone mistake the captain doesn’t usually make. Coupled with Tyler Myers falling down in the corner and then over-playing his recovery and putting himself out of position, it allowed McNabb a chance to walk in and score. It gave the Golden Knights their first lead of the game and the Canucks were then playing catch up the rest of the night.

The Canucks tied the game 3-3, then fell behind 4-3, tied the game again at 4-4, and lost 7-4.

Misleading Stat’ Line

Basic stat’s, as well as intricate analytics are misleading in the sport of hockey. There is no math for momentum, emotion, bounces and luck. From the box score Saturday night: Canucks outshot the Golden Knights 43-39, outhit them 33-23, and won a whopping 61% of the face-offs.

The stat’ line that doesn’t lie: Canucks 0-for-4 on the power play. Golden Knights 2-for-6. There are no analytics for crappy calls either. Canucks coach Travis Green may have entered fine ($$) territory with his postgame comments on the officiating.

“There’s definitely a couple of calls that should have never been called against us,” Green said. “I usually don’t complain about refereeing but the call against Demko was atrocious and the call against OEL, the double minor for roughing was very questionable for me as well.”

The Demko call may have been awful but the timing of it made it even worse. With the game tied 4-4 with 13-minutes remaining in regulation, the Vancouver netminder was given a delay-of-game penalty for intentionally knocking his goal off the pegs. Vancouver wasn’t exactly under an extreme amount of pressure at the time and there wasn’t much traffic around the net, so motive would have been questionable. Plus, the net and post at the one end had been giving the teams and both goalies problems all night, coming off on at least three other occasions.

“The post had come off a couple of times already, it came off with Lehner I believe in the second period,” Green said. “They actually had to go out and fix the post. On the commercial they had the crew come out and fix it. I mean “Demmer”, he wasn’t pushing the net off, a lot of times you’ll have a post in a game that’s coming off, they’ve gotta bring the crew out to fix the hole, and that wasn’t a penalty. I didn’t get an explanation.”

The ensuing power play for Vegas clicked with what was the game winning goal from Jonathan Marchessault at 8:24 of the third.

They Also Said:

Canucks defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson on the team giving up 7 goals for the second straight game:

“Especially when we started off really good, defending very well,” he said. “We have to get back to that for sure, that’s how we’ll win games, but at the same time it goes up and down in a season, so we just have to stay positive and build our own confidence in the group. We’re struggling a bit in letting in a lot of goals, that’s (what makes it) hard to stick with it, but try to stay positive and work hard.”

Canucks Head Coach Travis Green:

“It was a little bit of a run and gun game tonight,” Green said. “I felt like both teams were, if you talked to both coaches they wouldn’t like parts of the game. They’ve got a pretty offensive team even with a couple of players out of the line-up, they’re very strong in the offensive zone. With their cycle game and their movement and their motion, their defencemen, they’ve got a couple D-men that are dangerous in the offensive zone. I thought at times we didn’t close off and shut down a play, kill the motion as quick as we should have. I think when we’re on top of our game you see that a lot more, we close and we pin a guy up against the wall.

“When you’re missing three guys out of your top six (defencemen), there’s probably gonna be some of that in your game. I thought we hung in there well, even though there were some high danger chances that you’re going to try and eliminate.”

Canucks forward Brock Boeser on the team’s emotions after the game:

“Sucks,” he stated. “Obviously had a pretty good effort, but at the end of the day, special teams, and just a few little details and mistakes cost us.”

Simmer’s Canucks 3-Stars:

3)  Justin Bailey Why not. He’s had a few struggles along the way but had his most effective night five-on-five. Had four shots on goal and delivered 3 hits in 11:20 of ice time.

2) JT Miller – Won every single face-off he took, officially 11 for 11. Scored one goal on five shots and delivered three hits. His collision with big Keegan Kolesar sent Miller limping to the bench. It’s unknown whether the injury was bad enough to potentially keep him out of the line-up Sunday in Anaheim.

1) Nils Höglander – Earned this spot for the second straight game with 2 goals, an assist, five shots on goal in just 10:28 of ice time. That’s called making the most of it. He did fan on two other shots that would have been decent opportunities.

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