Canucks: If you can make it there (MSG) you can make it anywhere

The Canucks have had adventures trying to get better of the Rangers in historic Madison Square Garden. Their latest test is a tough one

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Vancouver Canucks (25-11-3) at New York Rangers (26-10-2)

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When/where: Monday, 4 p.m., Madison Square Garden

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TV: SN Pacific. Radio: Sportsnet 650

The buzz: It’s a 15-minute stroll from Madison Square Garden to the famous Broadway Theatre District. The proximity is fitting because a number of dramas have played out for the Canucks on the storied slab of frozen ice.

Last February in a 4-3 loss to the Rangers, there was plenty of late-game intrigue.

Quinn Hughes was struck in the nose by an errant clearing attempt early in the third period, left for stitches, and returned with a full face shield. He sent a long bank pass that Elias Pettersson chased down to negate an icing call. He then beat goalie Igor Shesterkin to make it a one-goal deficit with 3.44 remaining, but the Canucks couldn’t draw even.

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In a 3-2 win at MSG in October of 2019, the Canucks fired 20 first-period shots and took a comfortable 3-0 lead against the struggling Rangers, but coughed up a pair of goals and forced Jacob Markstrom to make 38 saves to preserve the win.

The Canucks also faced the Rangers on a wild U.S. election night in November of 2016 amid an MSG bomb scare. The Willie Watch was in full swing with Desjardins on the hot seat of an eight-game losing streak. Loui Eriksson scored his first of the season and Alex Burrows struck twice in a 5-3 win that kept Desjardins behind the bench.

Fast forward and expect a three-act drama when the Canucks and Rangers clash again Monday. The teams are amid a pack contending for first overall in NHL standings. The Rangers are 13-5-0 at home and own the top-ranked power play at 29.7 per cent efficiency. The Canucks are ninth at 23.9 and have three players in the top 11 of league scoring.

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The history: Second meeting of the season. Rangers winger K’Andre Miller scored at 3:48 of overtime and Shesterkin made six saves in the extra session on Oct. 28 at Rogers Arena for a 4-3 triumph. J.T. Miller, Tyler Myers and Carson Soucy scored for the Canucks. Andrei Kuzmenko had six shots and 10 attempts.

The hope: The reunited Lotto Line of Miller, Pettersson and Brock Boeser stays intact after combining for eight points Saturday in a 6-4 win at New Jersey. The Canucks rank second with 46 goals in the first period and are first with 56 in the second. They’re also 22-0-0 when leading after 40 minutes.

The fear: Lack of a complete game. Can’t sit back and sit on a lead, can’t stop moving their feet and losing defensive-zone coverage, especially against winger Artemi Panarin. The Canuck killer is tied for third in scoring with 53 points (24-29) and on pace for a career 117.

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The top guns: Miller is seventh in NHL scoring with 63 points (18-35) and has seven power-play goals. Hughes is 10th with 49 points (10-39) and leads all blueliners, while Pettersson is 11th with 48 (17-31). Boeser is sixth in goals with 24 and has nine PP goals.

The wounded: Canucks: Nikita Zadorov (undisclosed, day-to-day), Guillaume Brisebois (concussion, LTIR). Rangers: Kaapo Kakko (lower body, IR), Filip Chytyl (upper body, IR), Tyler Pitlick (lower body, day-to-day).

The quote: “We’ve got to find a happy medium to staying aggressive in our structure so that we don’t give up so much time and space.” — Miller.

The lineup:





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The prediction: After a day off Sunday, the Canucks are refreshed and meet the challenge. They execute strong middle drives to draw penalties and score twice on power play in a 5-3 win.

(FAN FORUM: Do you have a specific question for a player? Pass it along to @provincesports and we’ll get it in a future edition.)

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