Those buzz words rolled off the tongue as the Vancouver Canucks talked themselves hoarse in preparation to right some wrongs and end a three-game losing streak. That was the easy part.
The hard part would be executing against the red-hot Vegas Golden Knights. They were not only riding a three-game winning streak, they always had their way with the Canucks since entering the NHL by going 8-0-1 heading into Thursday’s meeting.
So, what better challenge to find your game?
Find some familiar line symmetry, play a strong north-south game with pace, exit and enter the zones smartly, tighten those back-check gaps, score even strength and on the power play as well as good, if not great, goaltending.
And, oh yeah, get a good start and see if it’s all sustainable to avenge a 6-3 loss in Las Vegas on Sunday.
“It’s hard,” Jay Beagle admitted following the morning skate. “We’re all competing and we’re all urgent — obviously. But can we raise that? We have to be better and that’s every single one of us.
“If we look at October, things were going easier and goals were going in easier, but compete and urgency were also at an all-time high.”
Here’s what we learned as the Canucks started fast to build 2-0 and 3-1 leads in the first period before Elias Pettersson snapped a 3-3 draw in the third period with his second goal of the night. Mark Stone then tied it and Chris Tanev settled the issue in overtime after Pettersson and Bo Horvat were denied for a 5-4 victory.
“I just passed it to Bo and went to the net and he made a really great pass and I didn’t think it was going to get to me and ended up on my stick. I went around (Marc-Andre) Fleury and it ended up going in,” Tanev said of his second goal of the season. “Go to the net with your stick on the ice — that’s what they say.
“We’ve been struggling lately and it’s been tough to find wins and this is big. Hopefully, we can get on a roll. It’s huge to get a win against a team that you know is going to be there at the end of the season.”
Leivo is levelled, game is levelled
The Golden Knights started to stir it up in the second period while trying to close the 3-1 gap.
They leaned on the Canucks. They hacked and whacked their way to change momentum and it worked. When Jacob Markstrom denied William Carrier with a backhand attempt while cutting across the crease — and then kept poking away at the goalie’s pads — there was a mosh-pit on purpose.
The bigger Golden Knights were looking for something and they got it. They pushed back and on a delayed penalty, Reilly Smith converted a cross-ice feed before Josh Leivo was drilled into the sideboards from behind on a vicious hit by Nick Holden that somehow went unpenalized.
The Canucks’ winger left the game favouring his right leg and Canucks coach Travis Green said post game that the prognosis wasn’t good. On the ensuing faceoff, Holden was credited with the tying goal on a point shot the appeared to be deflected by Max Pacioretty. The Canucks then called a time-out to gather themselves for what would be a frenetic finish.
Pettersson rang a power-play shot off the crossbar to end the hectic second period before taking a Brock Boeser cross-ice feed at 9:19 of the third and whipping a wrist shot high on the stick side. He didn’t initially celebrate his second goal that was stuck in back of the net. And he didn’t think of alerting his shot because hitting crossbars has become the norm.
“I just try to have a short memory out there and trust my instincts and trust my game,” Pettersson said of upping his goal total to 16 with four shots and eight attempts. “If you always think about what you could have done, you’re going to second-guess yourself out there.
“It was a really important win. We talked about it. This is the type of game we have to play every game — play hard and skate a lot. It was a fun game to play. A lot emotion between the teams.”
The Canucks had a chance to widen their lead when the Golden Knights were called for a face-off violation but couldn’t get a critical insurance marker before Tim Schaller was denied in tight.
Stone then scored off a 2-on-1 advantage.
Talk the talk, walk the walk
It didn’t take long for two third-liners to drive home the point.
The Canucks came to play in a big way. Adam Gaudette hustled into the offensive zone to out-leg Tomas Nosek, got the puck toward the net from a sharp angle and Antoine Roussel made sure he was there to bang it past Marc-Andre Fleury to open scoring at 2:49.
Beagle then drew an offensive-zone tripping minor and Tanner Pearson made sure he got to the net, established position and jammed in a Leivo corner feed at 7:08. After Jonathan Marchessault narrowed the deficit, Pettersson then got to the net to make it 3-1 and the Canucks had three goals on 11 shots. Imagine that? And they also stood up to the Golden Knights physically.
“That’s our game — it’s pretty black and white,” said Pearson. “Get pucks in, get turnovers and pucks to the net and when we do that, we’re a pretty good club and predictable to each other. That goes a long way. That was as close to a playoff game as we’re going to get so far. A good test at a tough time of the year for us.
“You know they’re not going to be a light team and you’re not going to push them around and at least stand your ground and handle it.”
Miffed Miller makes amends
When J.T. Miller made a pair of gaffes on the Golden Knights’ first goal, you knew he was going to do something to right the wrongs.
The Canucks winger committed a turnover in the offensive zone and while racing back to help break up a scoring chance, he failed to lift Marchessault’s stick as he bolted to the net to take a feed from Smith. However, after Markstrom stoned Stone on a backhand attempt, Miller would then drive hard to the net and, while from his knees, get a shot away before Pettersson bagged the rebound.
Miller also gave Paul Stastny a punch to the face and finish with five shots, seven attempts and won 63 per cent of his draws.
Markstrom did what he could
The Canucks weren’t going to totally deny a club on an 8-2-1 roll heading into Thursday’s clash.
He kept his poise early when the Golden Knights pressed for the equalizer by staying square and calm. He denied Chandler Stephenson on a short-handed opportunity before Pearson struck to make it 2-1 on the power play. There was that backhand chance in tight by Stone. He had little chance on the goals that beat him and gave the Canucks a chance to win.
Markstrom robbed Stastny with a blocker save with the Golden Knights on a late power play and finished with 38 saves after regulation time.
“The puck kind of came out back side and it was more of a desperation save and I just tried to get over to the post as quick as possible,” said Markstrom. “That was a timely save. You want to have an impact. You want to help the guys and that was my time to step up.
“We just needed a win and I didn’t care how it looked.”
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Vancouver Canucks
7 p.m., Rogers Arena, TV: CBC, SNET, CITY, SN360; Radio: SNET 650 AM
LISTEN: In this week’s White Towel podcast, beat writer Ben Kuzma and columnist Ed Willes join Paul Chapman to discuss the Canucks’ “micro-core” and the challenges they face going into the remainder of the NHL season. The group also looks at the job GM Jim Benning has done, the increased social media presence of owner Francesco Aquilini and whether that places extra burden on Benning, as well as the dilemma of what to do with the goaltending situation looking ahead to the off-season. The podcast finishes off with a look back at the 1982 Canucks team that caught fire and rode it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.
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Maple Leafs place veteran forward Jason Spezza on waivers – CBC.ca
The Toronto Maple Leafs placed veteran forward Jason Spezza and goaltender Aaron Dell on waivers Sunday.
Spezza, 37, skated in all three games so far this season and registered one assist while averaging 7:44 of ice time.
He signed a one-year deal for the league minimum of $700,000 USin October, hoping for one more shot at winning his first Stanley Cup with his hometown team.
Spezza has scored 941 points (341 goals, 600 assists) in 1,126 career games with the Ottawa Senators (2002-14), Dallas Stars (2014-19) and Maple Leafs. He tallied 25 points (nine goals, 16 assists) in 58 games in his first season with Toronto in 2019-20.
Spezza was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2001 NHL draft by Ottawa.
Dell, 31, has not played yet for the Maple Leafs. He signed a one-year, $800,000 contract in October following four seasons with the San Jose Sharks.
He compiled a 48-34-12 record with a 2.76 goals-against average and .908 save percentage in 107 games (89 starts) for the Sharks from 2016-20.
Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes ruled out vs. Browns due to concussion – Sportsnet.ca
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was knocked out of the divisional-playoff game against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday with a concussion in the third quarter.
Mahomes tucked the ball on a quarterback option with 7:27 left in the third quarter and tried to reach the first-down marker on third-and-1 near midfield. He was brought down hard by Browns linebacker Mack Wilson, who had managed to get ahold of him around his helmet. Mahomes was wobbly when he got up and had to be helped from the field, then was checked briefly in the blue tent on the sideline before jogging into the Kansas City locker room.
Chad Henne entered the game for Mahomes, who had been hobbling for much of the game after hurting his foot in the first quarter. Henne played the entirety of Kansas City’s loss to the Chargers in Week 17, when coach Andy Reid sat Mahomes and several other starts with the No. 1 seed and first-round playoff bye already secured.
Henne led the Chiefs to a field goal that made it 22-10 with 4:24 left in the third quarter. Henne went down the tunnel to check on Mahomes when the third quarter ended.
The Chiefs announced early in the fourth quarter that Mahomes will not return.
Meanwhile, the Browns lost left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. to an ankle injury and his backup, Kendall Lamm, to an elbow injury, forcing them to turn to Blake Hance. Hance was signed from the Jets practice squad on Jan. 2 to provide some depth to an offensive line that has been decimated by injuries and COVID-19 since the start of the new year.
Hance made his NFL debut in the fourth quarter of their wild-card win over Pittsburgh.
Wills remained down after Nick Chubb’s carry on the Browns’ first offensive play of the game before limping to the sideline with help from the training staff. He was listed as questionable to return before being ruled out at halftime.
Lamm was replaced at the start of the second half, helping the Browns drive 77 yards for a touchdown.
The injuries to the two left tackles made it even more important that Jack Conklin was active. The All-Pro right tackle had been questionable after hurting his hamstring in last week’s wild-card win in Pittsburgh.
The depth of the Browns offensive line has been decimated this season. Backups Chris Hubbard, Nick Harris and Michael Dunn are all out with season-ending injuries.
Report: Bills Fans Donate More Than $150K to Lamar Jackson's Favorite Charity – Sports Illustrated
Following the conclusion of the Buffalo Bills’ 17-3 victory over the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday night, over 5,500 Bills fans have donated more than $150,000 to Lamar Jackson’s preferred charity, the Louisville, chapter of Blessings in a Backpack.
On Saturday night, a Bills fan on Reddit shared that he donated $25 to Jackson’s favorite charity, an organization that works to feed elementary school children who are in need on weekends.
The donations appeared to continue overnight and into Sunday where it has reportedly reached more than six-figures of money raised.
“It started around 11:30 last night and our donation box just started flooding with donations from Bills fans for Lamar. It’s just been overwhelming—in the best possible way,” Nikki Grizzle of “Blessings in a Backpack,” told ESPN.
This isn’t the first time that Bills fans have rallied behind a singular cause following a football game. In 2017, Bills Mafia performed a similar gesture to Andy Dalton’s foundation, raising more than $415,000. Earlier this season, Bills fans also donated thousands of dollars to Oishei Children’s Hospital after it was announced that quarterback Josh Allen’s grandmother had died.
Ravens offensive lineman Bradley Bozeman, the Ravens’ Walter Payton Man of the Year, also tweeted on Sunday that Bills fans had donated to his organization overnight.
The Bills are set to take on the winner of Sunday’s Browns-Chiefs game in the AFC championship.
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