Canucks 3, Golden Knights 1: Playoff-style win in Sin City

Facing a wounded Vegas Golden Knights squad on their home turf, the Canucks came out strong, took a lead and never looked back

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With fewer than 20 games to go in the regular season, you did hope the Vancouver Canucks would start finding their way into playoff form.

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And for the second game in a row, the best team in the Western Conference showed they should be a force when the Stanley Cup playoffs begin just over a month from now.

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Facing a wounded, but defending Stanley Cup champions Vegas Golden Knights on their home turf, the Canucks came out strong, took a lead and never looked back.

The Canucks have been strong starters all season and generally strong finishers too. The past month had seen some dip, but after this 3-1 win in Vegas, on the back of grinding 2-1 wins in Los Angeles and Anaheim, they’re back to that fine form.

The Canucks’ power play took time to get rolling, but once they found their way they showed why they can be — and must be — a potent weapon for Vancouver down the stretch and into the playoffs.

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Given a five-on-three advantage, the Canucks worked the puck around well and Quinn Hughes wired home a fantastic goal to open the scoring.


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For Hughes, it was a monkey off the back: he hadn’t scored since Jan. 22.

You also take any goal you can, and Phil DiGiuseppe slid the puck under Adin Hill’s leg to double the Canucks’ lead and put Vegas under serious pressure. It’s not easy to chase in this league when you’re down a goal, let alone two.

Early, strong starts are a reason the Canucks have been solid this season and this game was no exception.

Vegas pushed hard and carried the play, but the Canucks built a fortress around the slot and although Vegas picked up a goal on a point shot and had a few dangerous scoring opportunities off cross-ice passes, they just couldn’t find any possession in tight.

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Shot heat map from Vancouver vs. Vegas on Thursday.
The Canucks didn’t get a lot in tight vs. Golden Knights, but Vegas got even fewer. Photo by Natural Stat Trick

After taking a win in a tough road city, the defensive play is what head coach Rick Tocchet will be most happy about.

“All the areas we wanted to shore up, gotta give credit to the guys,” a relieved-looking Tocchet told reporters post-game.

He was pleased with his team’s resilience, he added. They made mistakes, but they didn’t compound those errors with more.

“Shen we did make a mistake, we did hold the fort,” he said.

And he was happy with how his team kept the surging Knights at bay in the final 20 minutes.

“We played a smart third period,” he said.

Get ahead

No team in the NHL has scored more goals in the first period this season than Vancouver.

They’ve also got the best first-period goal differential in the league too.

You may have forgot give how things have gone in the past month, but this team is very good at starting hot and they did that again tonight.

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Punish them

The Canucks finally got their power play humming again.

It took two minutes for them to figure themselves out on a double-minor to Anthony Mantha, but the second set of two minutes was more impressive than the first.

And when Vegas put themselves down two, it was time to strike.

That they did. That’s what you want your power play to do.

Put them away

This was just about Elias Lindholm’s best game as a Canuck. Skating at centre with two industrious wingers in Conor Garland and Vasily Podkolzin, rarely did Vegas trouble the Canucks’s goal.

And it was Lindholm’s smart play cutting off a clearance attempt by Vegas that created the scoring opportunity that Garland capitalized on.

Garland’s goal restored the Canucks’ two-goal lead heading to the third period.

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It was a solid two-way game for Lindholm, the kind of game that the Canucks really need him to deliver going forward.

And it’s the kind of game that shows why the Canucks really did want to keep him in the lineup and that the idea of trading him to Boston was always unlikely.

Goals against

How out of sorts are the Knights this year? They came into the game giving up 2.95 goals per game, 12th in theN HL.

That’s a lot for a team that was 11th-best last season.

There he is

There is no doubting Di Giuseppe’s heart or attention to detail. He’s kept himself in the NHL through hard work, but the great flaw in his game is his finishing ability.

He must have felt relief finally scoring again: he hadn’t put the puck in the net since Nov. 12 in Montreal, although the shot was hardly for the highlight reel.

Mr. 400

Elias Pettersson picked up an assist on Hughes’ goal, giving him 400 points on the season.

He’s the first player from the 2017 draft to hit that many points.

Yes, he’s worth all that money.

Check the standings

The Canucks now have 89 points. There are still 17 games to be played.

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Give or take, 93 points is likely to be the minimum needed to make the playoffs in the west this year (hockeyviz.com is projecting 92.2 points as the playoff bar).

So, yes, two more wins and the Canucks will have cleared that hurdle.

They’ve got nine home games coming up here, first with Winnipeg on Saturday, then Colorado next Wednesday.

Wait they’re allowed to get THREE DAYS OFF at this point in the season?!

Playoff chase

The Canucks are now 11 points up on the Edmonton Oilers, who lost 4-2 in Columbus.

The Canucks are four points clear of the Winnipeg Jets for first overall in the conference.

By beating Vegas, the Golden Knights remain in the final playoff spot in the West, meaning if the playoffs started tomorrow, these two teams would face each other.

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Vegas is two points back of the Nashville Predators, with a game in hand on the Predators. The Preds have more regulation wins, so Vegas is going to have to overhaul Nashville on points to finish ahead.

St. Louis, Calgary and Seattle are all six points back of Vegas, but are running out of time to make up ground, even if they have games in hand.

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reference: theprovince.com

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