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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Sinclair to lead Canadian women’s team in her fourth Olympics
Christine Sinclair, the all-time international goal-scoring record holder, was named to her fourth Olympic squad on Wednesday and will headline a Canadian roster at the Tokyo Games that features a mix of veterans and youth.
Led by Sinclair, whose 186 goals for her country are the most by a female or male soccer player worldwide, Canada won medals at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics and was the only nation to make the podium in both competitions.
“I am looking forward to doing whatever I can to help take this team back to the podium and make history again,” said Canadian captain Sinclair. “Our team is in a good spot, we are excited, we are hungry and we are ready to go.”
The 18-player roster features 12 members of the squad that competed at the 2016 Rio Games while a quintet including Vanessa Gilles, Jayde Riviere, Julia Grosso, Adriana Leon, and Evelyne Viens will be making their Olympic debuts.
Goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan travelled to Rio in 2016 as an alternate.
Canada will kick off their Tokyo 2020 journey when they face Japan on July 21 and continue Group E play against Chile on July 24 and Britain on July 27.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond)
Which of the Canadians Picked in the 2021 NFL Draft Will Thrive This Season?
It was a good NFL Draft for Canadian players in 2021.
Some four stars from north of the border were selected by NFL franchises in the free agency pick ‘em, and that is tied as the highest number of Canadians drafted in the 85-year history of the event.
Welcome to Miami, Jevon Holland— PFF College (@PFF_College) April 30, 2021
Of course, the hope is that these young talents are more than just filler and roster depth, but can any of the quartet make the breakthrough into the big time?
Here’s a look at which of the NFL’s newest Canadian additions can shine in 2021/22.
The defensive back was the number 36 pick in the Draft by the Miami Dolphins, who beat off a number of rivals in the hunt for the Coquitlam native.
A versatile defender, Holland is a former Jim Thorpe Award semi-finalist thanks to his exploits in the NCAA back in 2019 with the University of Oregon.
He sat out the 2020 campaign, but representatives from dozens of NFL teams were in town to watch Holland go through his paces at the Oregon Pro Day.
The 21-year-old is following in the footsteps of his father Robert, who turned out for the Detroit Lions, and he is expected to force his way into the starting line-up at the Dolphins. And, who knows, maybe Holland could go all the way in his first season, with Miami priced at +2500 in the Super Bowl 2022 American football odds.
When you’re six foot three, 205 pounds and still able to run 40 yards in 4.51 seconds, it goes without saying that you have the physical credentials to succeed in the NFL.
Benjamin St-Juste is the man that can, and he will bolster the roster at a Washington Football Team that will be looking to improve upon their playoff showing in 2020.
The 23-year-old may only have been a third-round pick, but he comes with a burgeoning reputation thanks to a successful time at the University of Minnesota. An All-Big Ten special mention in 2019, more than 50 NFL recruitment personnel attended the college’s pro day – largely to catch a glimpse of St-Juste going through his paces.
Both Brian Gutekunst and Jon Robinson made the trip but, in the end, it was Washington who snapped up the powerhouse from the Draft.
The third Canadian to be drafted in 2021 was Chuba Hubbard, who became the first Canadian running back to be selected from the Draft in 25 years.
It’s the Carolina Panthers who have taken a chance on the 22-year-old and with his credentials, you can see why. Hubbard finished eighth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy in 2019 after a stellar campaign – he served up 2,094 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns, an NCAA best. He was named the Big 12 Conference Offensive Player of the Year.
While running backs are not the hottest of properties in the Draft, Hubbard provably has the talent to cross into the end zone with regularity – the Panthers might just have got their hands on an unheralded gem here.
With these three Canadians taking the step up to the NFL, the future of the sport north of the border looks in safe hands.
Berrettini ends Murray’s comeback at Queen’s
The 34-year-old two-time Wimbledon champion, playing in his first singles tournament on grass for three years, could not handle the ferocious pace of Berrettini as he slid to defeat.
Murray eased past Benoit Paire in his opening match on Tuesday but world number nine Berrettini was too big a step up.
Berrettini’s huge first serve and forehand did most of the damage but the Italian also showed plenty of silky touch on the slick lawns to register his first career win over Murray.
Berrettini, 25, finished the match off with a powerful hold of serve, banging down four massive first serves before sealing victory with a clubbing forehand winner.
He faces British number one Dan Evans in the quarter-final after Evans beat Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.
Murray, a five-time winner of the traditional warm-up event but now ranked 124 after long battles with hip injuries including resurfacing surgery in 2019, has been handed a wildcard for the Wimbledon championships.
Apart from a slight groin niggle, Murray said he was reasonably happy with his condition, considering this was only his third Tour-level tournament of the year.
“I think obviously I need to improve,” Murray told reporters. “I actually felt my movement was actually quite good for both of the matches. My tennis today was not very good today. That’s the thing that I’ll need to improve the most.
“I felt like today that that sort of showed my lack of matches.”
Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez, who won the singles title in 2019 and the doubles alongside Murray, was beaten 6-2 6-3 by Canada‘s Denis Shapovalov.
(Reporting by Martyn HermanEditing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar)
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