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Vancouver Canucks Brandon Sutter shoots the puck on Arizona Coyotes goalie Adin Hill in NHL action at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, BC, January 16, 2020.
Chris Tanev is no stranger to danger in playing tough defending role.
Arizona Coyotes forward Derek Stepan (21) defends Vancouver Canucks forward Bo Horvat (53) in the first period.
Arizona Coyotes left wing Taylor Hall (91) fights for control of the puck with Vancouver Canucks defenceman Christopher Tanev (8) during the first period.
Michael Grabner trips over Vancouver Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom.
Vancouver Canucks centre Elias Pettersson (40) fights for control of the puck with Arizona Coyotes right wing Vinnie Hinostroza (13) during the first period.
The Canucks were a little unfortunate to lose 4-0 on Tuesday in Winnipeg to the Jets. They fired 41 shots at the opposing net, hit countless posts and came away with no goals.
On Thursday, they got themselves some bounces and won a tight contest 3-1 over their divisional rivals, the Arizona Coyotes, at Rogers Arena.
Over the course of the game, the Coyotes slightly out-chanced the Canucks, but there was no case to be made that the visitors were robbed of a win.
The Canucks, quite simply, did what they had to do. There are still 34 games left to play in the regular season but with the Canucks now having playoff ambitions, this is the kind of game they’ll tell you they need to win.
They checked hard. They created chances when they could. And they, again, got solid goaltending from Jacob Markstrom, who made 34 saves on the night.
“It was tight. At times there wasn’t a lot of space. You had to make the right plays … and I think we did a good job of that tonight,” Quinn Hughes said.
The Canucks, who are now just one point behind the Coyotes while also holding two games in hand, got goals from Bo Horvat, Jake Virtanen and Tanner Pearson into an empty net, while the Coyotes’ goal was scored by Christian Dvorak.
Here’s what we learned…
Mixing it up
Virtanen got the bump to the top line, swapping spots on right wing with Brock Boeser. Virtanen’s speed is an obvious difference between the two players, though Boeser has been a point-per-game player this season skating alongside Elias Pettersson and J.T. Miller.
The two wingers have been swapped for each other before this season; the most recent instance was Tuesday’s loss to the Jets.
“Felt it was good to switch it up the other night. We’ve been thinking about it lately. I’ve talked to both players about it. Not a big deal to them. And I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point you see it go back the other way as well,” Travis Green said.
Boeser struggled to mesh with Adam Gaudette and Antoine Roussel but Virtanen picked up his 14th goal of the season by banking a shot from behind the net off Coyotes goalie Adin Hill, who was scrambling across to cover what initially looked like Virtanen building towards a wraparound attempt.
It was a smart bit of play by the winger.
Though it looked like perhaps it was a bit of luck for Virtanen, who did seem to be mostly just putting the puck towards the top of the crease in the hopes one of his linemates would find it, he insisted post game it was intentional.
“I just saw the goalie kind of over-commit a little bit about when I took a quick glance up and and in junior I used to do that wraparound move so I thought I’d try it out and it worked,” he said.
Third time’s the charm
Horvat’s power play goal came after the Canucks had already hit the post twice.
Patience makes perfect.
It was a Quinn Hughes shot that rang off the post and then bounced back into the slot, landing on the stick of the Canucks’ captain, who made no mistake in firing the puck back into the net past Hill.
The first power play unit hasn’t been able to find a goal of late, so Horvat’s exultation after firing the puck in the net was a reflection of relief as much as anything.
He also tried a between-the-legs shot in the second period after Loui Eriksson forced a turnover and slid the puck over to Horvat, who was alone in the slot, up against Hill.
“Thought I might have caught him a little off-guard,” Horvat said with a grin.
The Coyotes are known for being very hard-edged on defence. Finding scoring chances against them is a tough proposition.
Adding Taylor Hall was with a clear purpose: they wanted to give their offence a jet boost. Adding a former league MVP was an obvious move.
Hall showed off his talents on the game’s first goal, as he led a Coyotes rush into the zone, then, after losing the puck for a moment on the sideboards, was able to swat it down to his feet and then quickly dished to Dvorak, who fired the puck past Markstrom.
It was, however, a rare moment for him on the night as Horvat’s line checked Hall’s tightly.
For a moment, it looked like Tyler Motte had made a great play at the blue-line, which led to a perfect Jay Beagle deflection of the puck into the Coyotes’ net.
But after Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet challenged the play for offside, the officials overturned the goal, acknowledging that the puck had left the zone despite Motte’s efforts.
While the officials consulted with the video officials upstairs in Rogers Arena and at the league office in Toronto, the Canucks’ production team played a video featuring clips from TV and movie history, with characters like Capt. Picard from Star Trek, CSI’s Gil Grissom, … all looking at screens and asking for other characters to freeze frames and zoom in on images.
It was a good laugh.
Then when the referees announced their decision against the Canucks, the arena DJ played Hall and Oates’ Out of Touch to serenade the men in stripes.
“I didn’t know what was going on, I’d just finished my check and I looked up and Motter had the puck,” Jay Beagle said about his goal that wasn’t.
“That was three feet offside,” his linemate Brandon Sutter said with a laugh. “I couldn’t figure out what was going on.”
While the Canucks pulled themselves closer to the Coyotes, the Calgary Flames seized first place in the Pacific Division, pushing Arizona down to second place, by beating the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 in a shootout.
The Vegas Golden Knights also won, defeating the Ottawa Senators 4-2 in newly-minted head coach Peter DeBoer’s first game behind the bench of his new team. VGK are tied with the Canucks in points, but sit behind them in games played.
LISTEN: In this week’s snow-delayed White Towel podcast, Ed Willes joins Paul Chapman to talk about the Canucks heading into the All-Star break.
Among the topics discussed, how do the Canucks match up in the stacked Pacific Division? In a playoff series, which team would actually be the best? Are the Canucks using Jacob Markstrom effectively? Ed and Paul also revisit the old Patcast and remember some great Jeff Paterson and Jason Botchford travel stories, and revisit the 1990s Canucks and Pat Quinn’s skill as a general manager. And, finally, Ed talks about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominations and tries to compare bands to great NHLers.
Listen and subscribe to our podcast from your mobile device:
Vancouver Canucks vs. San Jose Sharks
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