The Canucks’ injury woes are starting to get a little ridiculous. Already missing Sven Baertschi, Alex Edler, Brandon Sutter, and Thatcher Demko, the Canucks added Chris Tanev and Jake Virtanen to the list of walking wounded.
Tanev reportedly has an ankle injury, which he suffered after taking a hit from Ryan Getzlaf against the Ducks. It’s possible the injury itself came after the hit, when Getzlaf tripped over Tanev and landed on his left skate.
Virtanen was also injured by Getzlaf, though his injury looked a lot more malicious, even if Getzlaf tried to play it off as an innocent collision. Getzlaf ran into Virtanen from the blind side away from the puck and it certainly appeared that Getzlaf saw Virtanen coming and had plenty of time to avoid him. The Department of Player Safety didn’t see fit to award a fine or a suspension.
According to the Canucks, Virtanen does not have a concussion and, when watching the replay, it looks more like Virtanen is reaching for his right shoulder. Virtanen has had shoulder issues in the past, but it was his left shoulder that he had surgery in his draft year. It’s unclear what Virtanen’s injury might be, but it’s encouraging that it’s not a concussion.
The injuries meant Nikolay Goldobin was back in the lineup and Guillaume Brisebois made his NHL debut. That makes Brisebois the sixth rookie to play for the Canucks this season.
They drew into the lineup to face the last-in-the-West Los Angeles Kings, who are bad. Thankfully so, as the Canucks were on the second half of back-to-back games and their third game in four nights. It took a late game-tying goal, but the Canucks pulled out a win to halt their small slide when I watched this game.
- This game had an extra-late puck drop to make room for a pre-game ceremony for a Los Angeles Kings legend: Sean O’Donnell. If you said, “Who?” that’s understandable, because this was stretching the definition of “legend” to its breaking point. It’s like if the Canucks brought out Gerald Diduck to be honoured. Maybe I’m just missing something and O’Donnell holds a special place in the hearts of Kings fans.
- The Canucks got off to a sleepy start, perhaps lulled into a stupor by the pre-game ceremony and 7:45 start time, or perhaps because they had just played on Wednesday night. Whatever the reason, the Kings out-shot the Canucks 7-2 through the first 10 minutes and there was a certain “Here we go again” feeling that came with it.
- Elias Pettersson cut that feeling short with a rocket of a wrist shot on the power play from a little bit below the Petterzone. The goal started, however, with a Brock Boeser shot that knocked loose a strap on Quick’s helmet. The Kings cleared the puck, a ref took a look at the strap, and determined that he could keep playing, but perhaps that loose strap was in the back of Quick’s mind as Pettersson loaded up his shot.
Death, taxes, and Pettersson torching goalies with his shot. pic.twitter.com/IyigmFVUIH— Wyatt Arndt (@TheStanchion) February 15, 2019
- That goal also provides some fodder for those who want to keep Troy Stecher on the power play. His crisp passes as he and Pettersson played catch prior to the goal kept the penalty kill moving to give Pettersson room to come a little bit closer and unleash his shot, so big and so strong.
- Unfortunately, the Kings answered back just eight seconds later. Tyler Motte got caught out of position on a broken play at the Canucks’ line, which gave Austin Wagner (no relation) plenty of space to carry the puck into the slot and rip a shot over Markstrom’s shoulder. It was a wicked shot, but he never should have had that much space to release it.
- Erik Gudbranson was on the ice for that goal against, like he was for all three Kings goals. I wouldn’t pin this one on Gudbranson, but goals against just seem to follow him around at this point, like he’s some sort of really terrible Pied Piper. This one had some extra irony, as it was the first time Gudbranson and Hutton had been intentionally paired together in over a month. It’s like the hockey gods saw them together and said, “Didn’t we break these guys up already? Get out of here!”
- My favourite moment of the first period came from Boeser, when he got the puck out of the Canucks’ zone with a little soccer play, jumping up to head the puck out to centre ice. It was clearly intentional — he didn’t even take his hands off his stick — and it harkened back to a classic Daniel Sedin moment when he tried a similar thing, heading the puck into the offensive zone.
- The Canucks got off to a similarly-slow start in the second period, with the Kings out-shooting them 7-0 early on. Markstrom had another fantastic performance, however, making 35 saves on 38 shots. He was particularly good on the penalty kill, where he made seven of his 35 saves, keeping the Canucks within striking distance of the Kings, like palace servants forming a union.
- The Canucks took the lead halfway through the second period thanks to the combo of Antoine Roussel, Adam Gaudette, and Brock Boeser. Roussel pinched hard down the boards to create a turnover in the offensive zone, then Gaudette cut to the net before flipping a backhand pass to Boeser at the back door. Boeser stuck it upstairs like Clark Griswold in the attic.
- It was a great game by Gaudette, who made a strong argument to never go back down to Utica again with a two-point game. His 11 points in 14 games in the AHL also make that argument pretty strongly.
- With both Edler and Tanev out, Ben Hutton and Troy Stecher were tasked with playing the biggest and toughest minutes. Stecher played a career-high 31:55 — 35 seconds short of exactly half the game — while Hutton finished with 28:37 thanks to a little less time on special teams. It’s probably not a good idea to keep them playing those kinds of minutes long-term, but they were pretty fantastic in the short-term.
- The most memorable moment of Brisebois’s debut came in the second period when he lost his helmet and immediately bolted for the bench, even though the puck was still deep in the Canucks’ zone. In the AHL, you get a penalty if you don’t leave the ice as soon as your helmet comes off, so instinct kicked in, even though the NHL doesn’t have the same rule.
- Brisebois seemed mostly okay in his first game, keeping up with the pace of the NHL, making the simple play, and showing a physical side to his game, albeit in just 9:24 of sheltered ice time. That said, he was also on the ice for two goals against. He couldn’t tie up Kyle Clifford’s stick in front of the net on the 2-2 goal, allowing Clifford to get to a rebound and create another, which Michael Amadio finished off after beating Roussel to the puck.
- Pettersson was plenty prickly about that goal and was caught shouting in frustration, possibly at himself, shortly after. He either yelled a couple english cuss words or something equally vehement in Swedish. He was likely angry with himself for getting knocked off the puck by Ilya Kovalchuk just before the goal.
When the bus says it's full and doesn't stop but you can clearly see it's only half full pic.twitter.com/xgBqT7HZ1G— Wyatt Arndt (@TheStanchion) February 15, 2019
- The Kings thought they had the 3-2 lead halfway through the third, but it was immediately waved off for goaltender interference. Markstrom had the evidence in his hand. When Carl Hagelin tipped the puck past Markstrom, he hit Markstrom’s glove. So, instead of catching the puck, Markstrom caught Hagelin’s stick and ended up literally holding the stick up to the ref in his glove.
- They got a good goal a few minutes later, however, when Alec Martinez’s point shot floated through traffic like Dynamo the Magician. Markstrom never saw it, as Gudbranson and his check were screening the initial release point, then Brisebois and his check cut across the shooting lane and the puck sailed behind Brisebois before sneaking inside the post.
- Nikolay Goldobin had a strong game away from the puck, winning battles and even leading the Canucks with three shot blocks. With the puck, however, he’s more snakebitten than Sami Salo. He had a golden chance to tie the game off a Troy Stecher rebound, but the puck went off the toe of his stick and hit the side of the wide open net.
- Goldobin also had this fantastic moment when he coldly stared down Kyle Clifford. I like to imagine he was thinking, "I must break you," in his head the entire time.
- Pettersson and Gaudette, however, came through. Pettersson tipped the puck into the Kings’ zone, but it was blocked by Drew Doughty. Pettersson drove into Doughty, creating havoc as everyone fixated on him. That’s when Gaudette fished the puck out of their skates (or Pettersson possibly kicked it to him intentionally) and whipped a shot past Quick.
- Overtime solved nothing, but Markstrom has been money in the shootout. After getting beaten on a slick move by Ilya Kovalchuk, Markstrom made back-to-back blocker saves on Anze Kopitar and Adrian Kempe. Meanwhile, Pettersson made it look easy with a deke to the backhand, and Boeser finished off the victory with a wrist shot under Quick’s blocker.
- The win keeps the Canucks at .500 for the season and tied in points for the Wild Card in the West, even if the two teams currently holding those Wild Card spots have two games in hand. For the moment, at least, the Canucks’ playoff hopes are alive. How long they’ll stay alive without Edler and Tanev in the lineup remains to be seen.