‘Twas the Knights before Christmas at Rogers Arena
Many seats appeared empty (Or were filled by John Cena)
The fanbase was hanging by the slimmest of threads
With visions of tanking another year in their heads
Jacob Markstrom was starting his sixth straight fixture
Since Demko is still on the injured reserve
All of the Canucks, led by Horvat the cap
Were determined that losing four-straight wasn’t hap-
And out on the ice, there arose A. Gaudette
Who chased down a dump-in and quickly shot it
Marc-Andre — The Flower — made like a brick wall
But Gaudette stuck with it and set up Roussel
Just like that, one-nothing, but the Canucks weren’t through
They added another to make it oh-two
Away down the wing, Leivo flew like a flash
And centred for Pearson and in he did cash
The Knights would respond on a Miller turnover;
He made up for the error, ‘twas the net that he drove’er
Creating a rebound for Petey to poke
To make it three-one and the arena awoke
The game took a turn in the middlest of frames
As Vegas responded with accurate aims
The Knights scored two goals amid some controversy
The refs missed a Knight boarding Leivs without mercy
They entered the third period in a tie game
And Travis Green shouted and call’d them by name
Now, Boeser! Now, Petey! Now, Miller and Tanev!
On Huggy! On Horvat! On Gaudette and Virtanen!
As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly
Came Boeser down right wing — cross-ice he did spy
Elias Pettersson along the left wing
And into the net, the puck did he fling
Yet the curse of puck management struck them once more
A turnover led to a Golden Knights’ score
That made it four-four, with four minutes to play
Was this one more Canucks lead that they’d piss away?
Late in the third, the Knights came in waves
And Markstrom came up with a big blocker save
That led to more hockey — oh what a gift!
Chris Tanev came out for an overtime shift
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work
Took a sweet sauce from Horvat and deked with a jerk
He tucked the puck under the left pad of Fleury
With a confident move — we were silly to worry
We should have predicted that Chris would deliver
A bunch of his goals are OT gamewinners
He gave us a gift like his last name was Kringle
Left ladies (and some men) wond’ring if he is single
He’s not (I am sorry), but I heard him exclaim
“Merry one-week ‘til Christmas," after I watched this game.
- This wasn’t an amazing game by the Canucks, who were out-shot by the Knights 43-to-34, but the biggest difference was how they went to the net. The team has been satisfied of late with too many shots from the outside, but four of their five goals in this game were scored from the top of the crease.
- Or, in Antoine Roussel’s case, inside the crease. Jake Virtanen tipped in a Tyler Myers’ pass from centre, then Adam Gaudette went to work, beating everyone to the puck and chipping it on net. Fleury couldn’t handle the shot, and Gaudette got a whack at the rebound, sending it through Fleury into the crease, where Roussel was all over it like a snake on a Christmas tree.
- Tanner Pearson gave the Canucks a 2-0 lead at the very last second of the Canucks’ first power play. Myers made a nice play at the blue line to keep the puck in, then Josh Leivo’s give-and-go with Virtanen was nearly broken up. Virtanen kept the puck alive to Leivo, whose end-line pass was jammed in by Pearson, who had boxed out Nate Schmidt in front.
- The Golden Knights responded on a pretty awful turnover by J.T. Miller. He circled the zone, then made an ill-advised backhand pass at the blue line that was picked off by Reilly Smith. Miller quickly got back on defence, but got fixated on the puck and stopped moving his feet, allowing William Karlsson to slip in behind him. Smith fed Karlsson, whose shot was turned aside by Jacob Markstrom, but Miller didn’t pick up the trailer, Jonathan Marchessault, who banged in the rebound.
- Everyone makes mistakes; what matters is what you do next, and Miller made up for it by manufacturing a goal out of nothing. He picked off a Schmidt pass at the Vegas blue line, then cut into the slot past Brayden McNabb, backhanding the puck on net as he was dragged down to the ice. Fleury mishandled the shot and Pettersson made like a golfer and chipped it in for Birdie.
- That 3-1 goal wasn’t possible without an incredible save by Markstrom at the other end. He stretched out his left pad to rob Mark Stone on the doorstep, then Brock Boeser lifted Stone’s stick at the last moment to prevent him from banging in the rebound. That would have been the httpITALICS turning point of the game if there hadn’t been half a dozen more turning points to come.
- The Knights’ first line struck again midway through the second period on a nice passing play, catching the Canucks running around in their own zone. Both Quinn Hughes and Chris Tanev ended up reaching for the puck instead of marking their respective checks and, as Michael Jordan once said, “You reach, I teach.”
- Then the controversy: Nick Holden hit Leivo squarely in the numbers, throwing him hard into the boards, where Leivo appeared to hit his right knee hard. Leivo stayed down and a scrum ensued, but the referees somehow didn’t call a penalty. Call it boarding, call it checking from behind, call it interference — bottom line, it should have been called.
- Leivo was clearly upset, which is generally not a good sign — athletes know their own bodies and it seemed like he could tell something was very wrong — and his teammates echoed his upsetness. A couple people — presumably Canucks — could be heard saying, “Keep your head up,” and “I’ll take a f***ing five gamer,” presumably referring to the five-game suspension he’d receive for whatever terrible thing he would do to Holden, leaving the actual act earning the suspension up to Holden’s imagination, thereby increasing the potential terror.
- To add insult to literal injury, Holden tied the game up on the next shift, as his point shot deflected in off Bo Horvat’s skate. He should have been in the penalty box and the Rogers Arena crowd was not shy to let the refs know that.
- After the 3-3 goal, Travis Green called a crucial timeout to allow his team a chance to regroup. They were significantly better through the rest of the second period after the timeout and it may have stanched the bleeding.
- Pettersson was feeling it in this game, scoring the 3-1 goal, then adding a crossbar in the second period on a rocket of a wrist shot, then finally scoring the 4-3 goal in the third period. It was a lovely cross-ice give-and-go: Pettersson banked the puck to Boeser on the right wing, then Boeser threaded the needle back to Pettersson on the left wing, and he cradled and released the puck all in one motion.
- The Knights couldn’t be repressed, tying the game up again. After a Myers turnover on a 4-on-4, the Knights put the Canucks on the spin cycle, rotating until the Canucks’ coverage broke down and Mark Stone opened up at the back door, with Hughes and Horvat miscommunicating who was supposed to mark Stone. The man they call Stoner scored with 4:20 remaining.
- Despite the four goals against, Markstrom was fantastic all game, particularly in the third period, where he faced 19 shots on goal. His biggest save came with two minutes left, as the Golden Knights poured on the pressure on a late power play. Jay Beagle didn’t pick up Paul Stastny at the back door, but Markstrom lunged across with the blocker, turning aside what looked like a sure goal. It was the biggest robbery since Divina de Campo didn’t win Drag Race UK.
- In overtime, Horvat was looking for his first goal at home of the season, but had to settle for a gorgeous assist. Tanev rotated down from the point and shook off Max Pacioretty, then took Horvat’s lovely saucer pass, evaded Fleury’s pokecheck with a deke to the forehand, then tucked the puck under Fleury’s pad. It was the most unexpectedly slick move since Lube Man slid into a street drain on Watchmen.
- Also a great move: Tanev’s uninhibited fist-pumping celebration, which looked like it owed a debt to Adam Gaudette’s pumped-up goal celebrations. I’m all for it: the more joy and exuberance, the better, because this team could learn to let loose a little more.
- This felt like a big win. With the fanbase on edge and the memory of getting steamrolled by these same Golden Knights on the weekend, the Canucks needed this victory. Now they just need to string a few wins together.