Final Score: Vancouver Canucks 4, Columbus Blue Jackets 3
Pregame: Covid reared it’s ugly head and it affected plans for this hockey game. The Vancouver Canucks reported two positive tests, one to defenceman Luke Schenn, the other to forward Juho Lammikko, just prior to the morning skate.
Defence first: Schenn could be replaced by Noah Juulsen, who was called up from the Abbotsford Canucks on December 10th, or by Oliver Ekman-Larsson, if he returns from injury. As it turned out both would play because Brad Hunt tested Covid-positive later in the day.
Phil Di Giuseppe garnered a call-up from the AHL Canucks Tuesday after the Covid news and provides another option, although he’ll likely sit.
Jaroslav Halak will get a rare start in net for the Canucks. No fault of his own, he’s looking for his first win with the Vancouver.
The Blue Jackets had the better of it early. They didn’t give up much at all defensively while getting more of the good chances at the other end. They were well acclimated and rested having not played since Saturday night in Seattle.
Juulsen found himself alone against a 2-on-1 that the Blue Jackets converted to take a 1-0 lead at 4:25 of the first period. Alex Texier waited out a sprawling Juulsen and found Eric Robinson going to the net hard. He ramped it up under Halak’s armpit and in.
The Blue Jackets would score two more before the period ended. Max Domi at 11:37 and Robinson again at 16:18.
Canucks defenceman Tucker Poolman was declared Covid-positive after the first period and didn’t return for the second.
For the first 25-minutes of the game the Canucks were flat. Felt like olden times, as in ten days ago. Then Conor Garland got into with large Blue Jackets defenceman Vladi Gavrikov. They battled along the end boards, they hacked, they whacked and eventually Garland had a enough of the chippy, cheap stuff.
Garland dropped his mitts in the crease and grabbed Gavrikov by the chest and pushed and pulled trying to draw the bigger man into a fight. Gavrikov would have nothing to do with it despite having an extra six inches in height and fifty pounds in bulk.
They both went to the box for roughing. The penalties came at 6:35 of the second period. On the ensuing four-on-four the Canucks found their legs and they capitalized with their first goal of the game. Captain Bo Horvat with a snipe on the move from the right wing circle, going top shelf on Elvis Merzlikins. The more recent version of the Canucks was back and they dominated the rest of the 2nd period, outshooting the Blue Jackets 18-5.
“We finally had someone showing some emotion, it happened to be the smallest guy on the ice,” Head Coach Bruce Boudreau said postgame. “Once he did that, I thought the bench perked up on the four-on-four, we scored on the four-on-four and then it was a different ball game from there.”
One sensed it might be a long third period for Columbus. The Canucks came out flying and it felt as though they’d be putting on sustained pressure getting back in the hockey game.
They took the first step at the 4:07 mark as Elias Pettersson scored his sixth goal of the season, second in two games and third in the last five. Garland found him alone in the crease.
And then the culmination … a power play goal by Bo Horvat on a cross seam slap-pass from JT Miller with just under a minute to play.
Halak made a huge save in the closing seconds with the extra attacker out for Columbus and picked up his first win as a Canuck.
Simmer’s 3 Stars:
3) Jaroslav Halak – Just because. Hung in there despite falling behind 3-0 in the first period. If you get a chance to watch it, his reaction after the final horn is priceless. Joy and incredible relief. His team final gave him some offense.
2) Bo Horvat – Two goals including the game winner. Played 18:15 and won 59% of his draws.
1) Quinn Hughes – Three assists and 27:28 in ice time. His pass on Podkolzin’s game tying goal was a beauty.