Golden Knights 6 Canucks 3: Too many lapses, too many sins in Sin City

The Golden Knights scored four goals on their first eight shots in the opening period. That should sound the alarm that not all is right with the Canucks

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Playoff-positioning dominoes can still fall in a number of directions.

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The Vancouver Canucks know they can only abide by their season-long mantra — it’s about us and not them — to not get passive and properly prepare for the NHL post-season.

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However, clinching a playoff spot should still bring some flinching because the Vegas Golden Knights are a potential first-round opponent. And the defending Stanley Cup champions flexed their offensive muscle Tuesday to send a stark reminder of what may await in the second season with a convincing 6-3 victory.


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The Golden Knights used speed and savvy to score early and often with four goals on their first eight shots in the opening period — thanks to sloppy line changes, odd-man rushes and bad positioning — and that should sound the alarm that not all is right in Vancouver.

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If that wasn’t bad enough, the Canucks also lost defenceman Nikita Zadorov to a five-minute major and game misconduct late in the first period. 

He drove Brett Howden from behind with 10 seconds remaining and his head hit the Plexiglass. It provided a five-minute power play on which the Golden Knights connected early in the second to go up 5-1.

“Not a good start and it starts with me,” said Canucks captain Quinn Hughes, who scored in the second and third periods. “We need to play better. We were not very good.”

The Canucks did battle back in the final 40 minutes, but Hughes didn’t see any silver linings.

“Honestly, I don’t think so,” he said.


Vegas Golden Knights centre Brett Howden (21) slides on the ice as Canucks defenceman Quinn Hughes watches during the second period on Tuesday night
Vegas Golden Knights centre Brett Howden (21) slides on the ice as Canucks defenceman Quinn Hughes watches during the second period on Tuesday night Photo by John Locher /AP

The warning signs were ignored

Rick Tocchet sensed this three-game road trip was going to be a test of mettle.

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How urgent should you be with a playoff spot locked up? Is it more of a mental battle to push the pace and how do you address that?

“I don’t think you lose urgency,” the Canucks head coach said following an optional morning skate. “A lot of guys want to play better and add more to their games and that intensifies. You want a happy balance. Yo don’t want to put on pressure where they’re squeezing their sticks.

“Experienced guys know how to handle pressure and when they’re not playing well. You can really learn from coaches because a lot of us have played in the playoffs. We can relax these guys, so when they go into the fire, they’re ready for it.”

The Canucks weren’t ready for anything Tuesday. On two occasions, they gave up a goal in short order after scoring.

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“Penalties and odd-man rushes and I didn’t think four or five guys were ready to play,” Tocchet said post game. “We had our moments in the second and third periods, but that first put us behind the eight-ball. There were three or four plays where you need to go through people. They (Golden Knights) are a good wall team.

“There were probably four plays where if we go through players, they don’t get the odd-man rush. And when you dive in and don’t get a piece of anybody, they get the odd-man rushes and I don’t know why they weren’t ready to play.

“We were just a little light everywhere and that’s not the type of game you want. We have to find it quickly. Some guys have to look at what they can do different to help the team. We have to regroup and get the negativity out. It has to happen now.”

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Here’s what we learned as Anthony Mantha, Jonathan Marchessault, Jack Eichel, Noah Hanifin, William Karlsson and Howden scored for the Golden Knights. Quinn Hughes scored twice (and hit the crossbar) while Nils Hoglander had the other goal for the Canucks:


Vegas Golden Knights left wing Pavel Dorofeyev (16) celebrates with Anthony Mantha after Mantha scored during the first period
Vegas Golden Knights left wing Pavel Dorofeyev (16) celebrates with Anthony Mantha after Mantha scored during the first period Photo by John Locher /AP

Smart start not in the cards

The Canucks lead the NHL in first period goals (89) and have given up the seventh fewest (53).

They’re also 27-6-3 when leading after 20 minutes, but they were moot points Tuesday.

The Golden Knights broke smartly from the gate and on their second shift, the Canucks were sloppy and coughed up a breakaway in which Pavel Dorofeyev forced Casey DeSmith to make a right pad save. But the puck was loose and Mantha was left unattended for a jam job at 1:27.

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It didn’t get any better after that and the onus was on the Canucks to make something of the rest of the night and take some momentum into Arizona on Wednesday. They had a territorial edge in the second period to try to make a game of it.

Hughes gave the Canucks a breath of life in the frame when Elias Pettersson set a power play screen and his point shot found the glove side to reduce the deficit to 5-2.

And early in the third, the captain struck again for his career-high 15th goal, but the Golden Knights responded 24 seconds later.

The Canucks tried to do the same and mount a comeback in the first period.

Hoglander scored by coming off the boards and getting to the front of the net and jamming his career-high 23rd goal to make it 2-1. However, the Golden Knights struck just 20 seconds later as the Canucks were slow on the back check and didn’t pick up the trailer.

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Vancouver Canucks left wing Nils Hoglander, right, celebrates after scoring against the Vegas Golden Knights during the first period
Nils Hoglander, right, celebrates after scoring against the Vegas Golden Knights during the first period Photo by John Locher /AP

Can Pettersson find some swagger?

The slick Swede logged his 400th career regular-season game Tuesday.

The signpost was of significance because his 407 points (169-238) average to a point-per-game clip, the true measure of sustained production and future value.

And that’s where it gets interesting.

Pettersson has had his challenges this season — a reported groin issue and a recent maintenance day — plus scoring slumps that have led to a host to wingers to get his game going. His 84 points (33-51) have him in the top 13 of league scoring.

However, he hasn’t been prominent at pace or as dominant with the puck as he can be. He had two shots and four attempts Tuesday.

“It’s my job to figure ways to get him going,” said Tocchet. “When he moves his feet, and I know everybody talks about it, he drives plays. He’s a hell of a player and we just have to keep reminding him to get in those situations and attack.

“He’s got 61 goals on his wings (23 from Hoglander and 38 from Boeser). Do the right things and it could be a dangerous line for us.”

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reference: theprovince.com

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