The Vancouver Canucks proved to be the ‘Comeback Canucks’ on their four-game eastern road trip that wrapped up with a 6-4 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night.
Consistent third period comebacks are difficult to come by in the NHL, a great majority of leads held entering the third period of games, especially by teams near the top of the standings, stay held.
“I think they’re starting to believe in themselves, and when you have belief, anything can happen,” Canucks Head Coach Bruce Boudreau said after the Toronto game. “We played so bad in the second period and the thought was ‘we’re only down by one’. So all we had to do was win one period and we’d at least have a point.”
Instead, the Canucks ended up with two points against the Maple Leafs and six of a possible eight on the road trip.
“Obviously confidence is a big thing, we’re confident in our ability,” Canucks captain Bo Horvat said in Toronto. “I think we know what kind of team we are, what kind of team we have to be to be successful and the way we’re playing right now, I think everyone realizes what we need to do and we’re just doing it nightly.”
On Thursday night the Canucks tallied twice in 45-seconds in the middle of the third period to surprise the New York Islanders at UBS Arena and win 4-3. Nils Höglander tied the game at 9:34 of the period, snapping a 21-game personal goal scoring drought, and Vasily Podkolzin un-tied it at 10:19. Vancouver clamped down, Thatcher Demko made the saves he needed to and the Canucks skated back to Canada at 2-and-1 on the road trip with an explosive Maple Leafs team awaiting them.
In an exciting affair that featured some wide open moments and multiple lead changes, the Canucks prevailed again. This time trailing 4-3 entering the third period, the Canucks scored three unanswered goals to win. Tanner Pearson’s tip-in at the 1:03 mark set the stage and stole Vancouver momentum. Alex Chiasson followed at 6:55 with the eventual game winner and Tyler Motte sealed it with an empty netter.
Again, Demko was a wall late in the game.
“As soon as there’s a breakdown, I mean he’s been unbelievable for us all year,” Horvat stated. “That’s how you go far in the playoffs, that’s how you get to the playoffs, with great goaltending and he’s been unbelievable for us.”
With the Maple Leafs goalie Jack Campbell on the bench and the extra attacker on the ice for more than two minutes, it came down to Demko’s heroics. The Leafs had 16 shots in the third period, 38 for the game.
“Demko in the last five minutes was incredible,” Boudreau added.
Also for the second straight game, Vancouver overcame a major gaffe by forward Brock Boeser. A fanned on pass in his D-zone on Thursday ended up on Anthony Beauvillier’s stick in the slot and the Islander made no mistake in deking Demko for the go-ahead goal early in the third. Vancouver recovered.
Saturday night the timing wasn’t worse but the play was indeed. Mid-2nd period Boeser sent a clearing attempt out in front of his own net that turned out to be a perfect pass to the Maple Leaf’s sniper Auston Matthews, who ripped home a one-timer to tie that game at three. The Leafs would take the lead 3:14 later on another Matthews goal, his NHL-leading 39th of the season.
Again, the Vancouver Canucks recovered and ‘picked-up’ their teammate.
“He’s the type of guy who didn’t let it dwell and goes out and plays even better after that,” Horvat said. “That says a lot about him, his mental state, how he wanted to make a difference after he made that play and the guys ‘picked him up’ on the bench and he responded well and got an assist and ended up being a huge a part of that win.”
With his goal and assist, four shots on goal, and the fact he recovered from that play, Boeser was named first star of the game by the media at Scotiabank Arena.