A game in which special teams was the difference and the Minnesota Wild just shut the door in the third period? Sounds like the old Northwest Division and, at least for the last period, it certainly felt like an old school battle against a defensively sound team.
But the Vancouver Canucks probably deserved a better fate in this one (and if you’re counting at home, that’s four straight one-goal losses). The Canucks outshot the Wild and outplayed them for stretches as well. The difference ended up being the Canucks penalty kill, which allowed all three goals, including two within a minute of each other (the first on a 5-on-3).
Again, there were positives to be gleaned in this one. But those didn’t result in a much-needed win.
Here’s what else we saw in Vancouver’s 3-2 loss to the Wild. (Just typing that makes us feel like it’s 2004 again.)
Three that impressed
1. Josh Leivo
Bit of a no-brainer. Leivo scored his first goal as a Canuck (a beauty snipe assisted by Elias Pettersson, of course) seven minutes into the game and looked dangerous all night. The trade for Michael Carcone already seemed like an obvious win, and tonight only accentuated that.
One wonders if he’ll be able to hold onto Nikolay Goldobin’s spot on that first unit when the latter is returns to the lineup.
2. The fourth line
Jay Beagle made his return to the roster tonight and centred a tough fourth line with Tyler Motte and Tim Schaller. Motte scored to put Vancouver up 2-1 (assisted by Schaller and Troy Stecher) on a goal that only happened because of the way the trio kept digging after the puck in Minnesota’s zone.
3. Jordan Greenway
The rookie isn’t talked about much, but he had his way with the Canucks tonight, bursting into the zone freely numerous times. He didn’t get on the scoresheet, but his tenacity, backchecking ability and ability to drive the puck into the zone stood out. It looked like he might have broken his leg on a critical block of a Chris Tanev shot at the end of the first period, but the hulking forward (6’6, 227 pounds) was right back at it.
Three that didn’t
1. Michael Del Zotto
He had some decent offensive moments, but he also took two penalties, both of which the Wild scored on. The second was the backbreaker, as Del Zotto decided to crosscheck Zach Parise in the back while on the PK. It led to the 5-on-3 advantage and more or less decided the game.
Travis Green defended Del Zotto after the game, saying “that’s not a penalty” and that Parise sold the hit. Those are tough sells from Green, as it sure seemed like Del Zotto didn’t have to make that play.
2. Greg Pateryn
The veteran defensive rearguard didn’t have a great gam, as he was a minus-1 on the night and only played 10 minutes. He also took Jake Virtanen into the boards on a very dangerous hit that he was lucky to get away with a minor penalty for.
3. Loui Eriksson
We were waiting to see what kind of impact an Eriksson-Gaudette-Roussel line would have and while his linemates had their moments, the veteran winger was completely invisible. The Canucks could have used something (anything) from Eriksson, but that’s long been the story with him and the club.
- Travis Green noted that it wasn’t easy to send Sam Gagner back to the AHL but reiterated that he’s liked what he’s seen from Gaudette. It begs the question of who goes down once Sven Baertschi is ready to return to the lineup (and he was in and around the building tonight). It will tell a lot about how Green views the pecking order of his team.
- On that note, is Green really on Del Zotto’s side about the penalty or will he be switched out for Derrick Pouliot, who has sat the last several games? Our gut says Green makes the move.
- Room will also have to be made in the lineup for Goldobin, and it sure seems like Green wants to keep his fourth line together. Will that make Markus Granlund (who Green talked up once again in the post-game) the odd man out? Fans will be calling for Eriksson, but his contract makes that unlikely.
- Eric Staal didn’t look like he’s lost a step at all. He was stepping all over the Canucks and getting into skirmishes with Jake Virtanen and Brock Boeser, among others. He seemed to be able to barge his way to the net whenever he wanted.
- Speaking of barging, it was encouraging to see Erik Gudbranson make his way through the crowd to try and send a message to Pateryn after Virtanen was railroaded.
"Yeah, bit of a funny game." - Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk, who looked and sounded very relieved that his team won one after three consecutive losses
"I think Goldy will be better off for this." - Travis Green defending his decision to sit Goldobin, who entered the game third on the team in scoring
"Obviously feels good. Had been a long time, and it was nice to get the timing back and be with the boys." - Jay Begle on his return to the lineup
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