I Watched This Game: Elias Pettersson rides out the Avalanche with a five-point night

Canucks 7 - 6 Avalanche (OT)

Pass it to Bulis

A game like this seemed inevitable. All season, the Canucks have swung between two extremes: holding their opponents to two or fewer goals, where they’ve won every time, or giving up four or more and losing.

So, after only giving up two goals against in each of their two previous games, and facing a high-flying, high-scoring Colorado Avalanche, it wasn’t at all surprising that the Canucks gave up six goals and got run out of their own building with a loss. Wait, what’s that? The Canucks scored seven goals and won?

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That can’t be right. The Canucks haven’t scored seven goals in a game in nearly four years. Seriously, the last time the Canucks scored seven goals was December 22, 2014. The winning goal was scored by Kevin Bieksa. That’s how long ago it was.

This game was a more rollicking rollercoaster ride than the Playland Corkscrew, as the two teams traded goals like they were Pokémon. The game was wilder and woollier than an escaped flock of sheep. Like the source of pistachio milk, it was udderly nuts. While I was writing this paragraph, the teams combined for six more goals.

This was the most exciting hockey game in Vancouver in years and I could barely keep up as I watched this game.

  • Elias Pettersson is the youngest player in Canucks history to record five points in a single game. With 9 goals and 15 points in 9 games, he now has a 7-point lead in the rookie scoring race, despite missing six games with a concussion. Even if you wanted to constrain the hype train, how could you?
  • The crazy thing about Pettersson in this game? He’s scoring at a goal-per-game pace, but his prettiest highlights from this game were all passes. He’s a playmaking wizard and also a goalscoring sniper. In Dungeons and Dragons terms, he’s running a gestalt character in a single-class campaign. It’s just not fair.
  • Pettersson was pure legitness and it started right from his first shift, as he sprung Brock Boeser on a breakaway with a gorgeous cross-ice feed. Philipp Grubauer tried for the pokecheck, but Boeser avoided the poke like he was allergic to fish and chipped the puck short side.

 

 

  • I don’t want Pettersson’s 5-point night to overshadow Boeser’s 4-point night. Really, this game was about the two of them together finding chemistry for the first time, which the rest of the league should find terrifying. Like, imagine if Connor McDavid and Taylor Hall were somehow on the same team together...wait, bad example.
  • I also don’t want to overlook the third member of their line, Nikolay Goldobin, who only had two assists, but was instrumental in creating some of their best chances. He had a team-high 65.2% corsi, and the Canucks out-shot the Avalanche 10-6 when he was on the ice at 5-on-5.
  • Later in the first period, Pettersson took a hit in the neutral zone to send Boeser in alone again, but this time he couldn’t evade the pokecheck, partly because he was slashed by Colin Wilson. Boeser was not impressed with the non-call.

 

 

  • Colorado tied the game early in the second period on the extremely rare double-deflection: it was tipped once by Colin Wilson, then tipped again by Sheldon Dries, going back against the grain on Markstrom. That goal was tippier than a finless paddleboard.
  • As T.S. Eliot once said, “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.” Pettersson, a poet on ice, showed a maturity uncharacteristic for a 19-year-old by blatantly stealing one of the Sedins’ signature moves, intentionally icing the puck to send a bank pass to Boeser. It was perfectly placed, just out of the reach of Grubauer, and Boeser skated onto the puck and made no mistake with his shot.

 

 

  • Stop. Stop reading for a moment. Go back and watch that goal again. What an absurd pass, topped off by a perfect finish. Ridiculous.
  • Fans were still buzzing about the Boeser goal when the Avalanche tied it again. Just 50 seconds later, Mackinnon teed up Ian Cole, who sent a laser off the post and in. Markstrom lost sight of the puck thanks to an inadvertent screen by Erik Gudbranson, who makes a better door than a window.
  • No Canucks game is complete these days without an injury scare, so Matt Calvert obliged and provided a dirty crosscheck in the back on Boeser. The referees evidently missed it, which is slightly understandable, because the puck was so far away that it was barely visible to the naked eye. Not only were Calvert’s crosscheck and the puck not in the same area code, they weren’t even on the same planet. It was so far away from the play that the light from the crosscheck won’t even reach those near the puck for another 23 years.

 

 

  • You could tell this wild game wasn’t going to slow down when even Loui Eriksson scored, his first goal since February. Subtle Loui has a tendency to disappear, but this time it was to his advantage. When Gudbranson’s point shot pinballed through the crowd, the Avalanche lost sight of Eriksson, so when the puck landed on his stick he had plenty of space to loft the puck over Grubauer’s right pad.
  • Brendan Gaunce picked up the secondary assist on Eriksson’s goal, making that goal even more unlikely. Gaunce only took seven faceoffs, but he won that one back to Gudbranson. Meanwhile Bo Horvat took a whopping 35 faceoffs, more than the rest of the Canucks combined. He was dominant too, winning 66% of his draws.
  • A couple minutes later, the Avalanche tied the game right back up, partly thanks to an aimless backcheck by Tyler Motte. He skated back hard on the puck-carrier, but when Gudbranson and Hutton picked up their checks, Motte needed to switch to Mackinnon. Instead, he followed the puck as it was passed to Mikko Rantanen, leaving Mackinnon open in the slot to sling a shot through Markstrom.
  • Two minutes after that, the Avalanche took their first lead of the game. The fleet-of-foot Alex Kerfoot took advantage of an over-large gap from Michael Del Zotto and Alex Biega and zipped up the gut like a surgical zipper, splitting the defence and beating Markstrom over the blocker. Side note: do not do a Google Image Search for a “surgical zipper.”
  • Pettersson’s hands may be soft and smooth as silk, but he’s not afraid to get them dirty, as he proved on the 4-4 goal. After Troy Stecher hit the post on a patient play, he got the puck back and forced a save from Grubauer. When the Avalanche goaltender couldn’t cover the puck, Pettersson put on his blue-collared shirt, donned his hard hat, grabbed his lunch pail, and went to work, shoveling home the puck for the greasy goal.

 

 

  • Another period, another early goal. 1:30 into the third period, Del Zotto gave Nikita Zadorov a little too much space coming over the Canucks’ blue line. Zadorov took the puck and roofed it like a peasant with a thatched-roof cottage after Trogdor’s come through the countryside.
  • Boeser nearly had a hattrick in the third period on yet another sweet setup by Pettersson. On the power play, the Avalanche tried to pin the puck along the boards. It seemed like Pettersson was waiting for the penalty kill to overcommit to the board battle, as he suddenly fished the puck out of the mass of skates and whipped it to an open Boeser in the slot. Only a lovely glove from Grubauer kept the puck from tickling twine.
  • I don’t know if there were any Markus Granlund fans in the stands at Rogers Arena, but there was at least one on the ice. Namely, when Granlund fanned on the puck from a Nikolay Goldobin feed, causing Grubauer to drop into his butterfly. Granlund collected the puck again and had plenty of room to make it 5-5, just like I have plenty of shame about that “fans” joke.

 

 

  • No night when you give up six goals can be described as a good night for a goaltender, but he did make some sterling saves, particularly in the third period. He bailed out Brendan Gaunce after Nathan Mackinnon burned past him in the neutral zone, then later made his best save of the game on Colin Wilson, sliding to the left like Beyoncé to absorb the shot on a broken play.
  • Alex Biega and Michael Del Zotto weren’t exactly what you would call “effective.” They didn’t, per se, “play well” or “prevent scoring chances” or “own a toothbrush.” Biega did, however, throw one of the biggest hits of the game on Matt Nieto, wiping him out along the boards, then Del Zotto followed up by table-topping Gabriel Bourque over Biega’s back.

 

 

  • You could tell the Canucks weren’t pleased with the reffing in this game, particularly after Bo Horvat took a late penalty on what he seemed to call the “biggest dive ever” by Gabriel Landeskog. It didn’t help that the Avalanche took a 6-5 lead on the subsequent power play, moving the puck with impunity around an overmatched Canucks’ penalty kill to set up a backdoor tap-in for Mackinnon.
  • Down by one with time running out, the Canucks pulled Markstrom, hoping for a miracle. Turns out the miracle was within them all along: it was Pettersson. Landeskog lost the puck in his skates behind the net with Boeser pressuring him, then gave it away to Horvat, who swung it out front to Pettersson. He wasted no time, flinging it past Grubauer’s glove, then lept in the air in pure joy, much like every Canucks fan watching the game.

 

 

  • The Canucks dominated overtime, out-shooting the Avalanche 7-0, but Gabriel Landeskog came within inches of a shot on goal and a gamewinner when he rung the crossbar behind Markstrom. Of course, that’s why they call goalies “netminders.” They’re minding the net; they don’t mind the posts. They don’t mind them at all.
  • Pettersson should have been given the chance to seal the victory with a hattrick-completing penalty shot in overtime, as he got hauled down from behind by Kerfoot on a breakaway. Instead, the referees awarded the Canucks a power play, which ultimately had the same result, but lacked some of the drama. Give us the drama, refs! We crave it!
  • Derrick Pouliot only scores game-winning goals. Literally, every goal in his NHL career has been a game-winner, which is why it’s such a shame he only has six career goals. On the 4-on-3 power play, Pouliot somehow ended up in the corner, where he received a pass from Pettersson. He came peeling out and put the puck off the crossbar, off Gabriel Bourque, and in. Nothing but net, just like he planned it.

 

 

  • The crowd went haywire when the puck went in and suddenly Rogers Arena looks like a fun place to be again. Pettersson’s five-point night, a wild back-and-forth game with 13 goals, and a win: it doesn’t get much better than that.
     

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