NHL Final Score: Vancouver Canucks 5, Seattle Kraken 2
Pregame: After taking part in the morning skate media availability, Canucks forward Jason Dickinson was placed in Covid protocol after testing positive. Vancouver had exactly 18 skaters available for the game and with versatile Brad Hunt in the line-up they could go 12 F and 8 D with Hunt on the 4th line or 11 and 7 with Hunt as the extra D.
There was tremendous energy inside the Climate Pledge Arena with this holiday crowd and the second they announced that organist Rod Masters from the classic 1970’s hockey movie “Slapshot” would be playing the national anthems, and as he did so, one got the feeling the hockey gods might make this a feisty affair. I was immediately thinking fight(!) and was rewarded with one just 5:12 into the first period when Canucks forward Tanner Pearson and Kraken D-man Carson Soucy dropped the mitts. Soucy had delivered a mighty neutral zone hit on Vancouver’s Conor Garland and Pearson came to his linemate’s defence.
Canucks Head Coach Bruce Boudreau was in the movie as an opposing player against Paul Newman’s (character Reg Dunlop’s) Charlestown Chiefs. “Gabby” is kind of over talking about his hockey playing role in the flick, but like the rest of us probably enjoyed the chippy nature to the start of this game.
By the way, Boudreau was playing minor league hockey in Johnstown, Pennsylvania where the film was shot and when the director asked the team which actual minor leaguer had the messiest apartment in real life, the players all pointed at Boudreau. His sloppy pad doubled as Dunlop’s in the movie.
We’ve been talking about channelling Nils Höglander’s energy lately, including with coach Boudreau. The 21-year-old Swedish forward continues to learn the 200-foot NHL game while trying to control and maximize his many offensive instincts. “Hoagie” showed some joyous relief in scoring the Canucks second goal of the game, a power play marker, at 14:49 of the first period. It was his first goal in six games and just his third in the last 18. He had a two-goal game along the way back on December 10th against the Winnipeg Jets.
The All Important Third Period
Under Boudreau thus far, even when they haven’t played an entire 60-minute game, the Canucks have consistently had strong 3rd periods. The two games in Southern California are perfect examples. One would expect the tendency to continue Saturday night in Seattle while holding a one-goal lead after two periods on the road. The envelope please …
The forecheck led to the first Canucks goal of the night and it led to another at 4:46 of the third period. Tyler Motte on a feed from along the end-boards by Matthew Highmore; Motte’s third goal of the season and his first in ten games put Vancouver up 3-1.
The teams would later swap third period goals :46-seconds apart with the Canucks never relinquishing the lead. Tanner Pearson chipped in an empty netter.
They Said It:
— “I thought it was pretty cool when he showed up,” Boudreau said of seeing the “Slapshot” organist. “Obviously looking a little bit different like we all do, but you have a fight and actually two big hits in the first five minutes and I’m going, ‘what’s this game gonna turn into?'”
— “I thought it was pretty cool,” Pearson said of his ‘Gordie Howe Hat Trick’. “Starting out my career I would have put more money on myself to get a (regular) hat trick before a ‘Gordie Howe’, but at the end of the day to say you did it I think is pretty cool.”
Simmer’s Canucks 3 Stars:
3) Brad Hunt – Showed versatility, played more than 14-minutes, including on the power play where he chipped in an assist. Had two blocked shots.
2) Tyler Motte – Loved the line of Motte, Bo Horvat and Highmore right from the start of the game and they were rewarded for their tenacious forecheck. Motte’s goal the game winner.
1) Tanner Pearson – On informal “Slapshot” night, Pearson scores an empty netter and nails down the Gordie Howe Hat Trick with a goal, assist and a fight.