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' goalie Petr Mrazek exits with groin injury vs. Senators – The Athletic
Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Petr Mrazek exited after the second period of a 3-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Thursday with what the team called a groin injury. The team had no further update on his status after the game.
Mrazek went down awkwardly on the final shot of the period from Ottawa’s Victor Mete, then hobbled down the tunnel at the end of the period. Mrazek made 26 saves but allowed three first-period goals. Jack Campbell came on for the Leafs in goal to start the third period.
Mrazek, 29, was making his debut with the Leafs after signing a three-year deal in the offseason.
(Photo: Chris Tanouye / Getty Images)
Umpire's 'Blown' Check-Swing Call Ends Epic Dodgers-Giants Series And Stuns Fans – Yahoo
The Giants’ Wilmer Flores struck out on what many believed was a blown check-swing call by first base umpire Gabe Morales. The out preserved the Dodgers’ 2-1 victory in Game 5 on Thursday, allowing the team to advance to the National League Championship Series against Atlanta.
The chances of a Giants rally appeared dim at the time. The count was 0-2, there were two outs, a runner on first, and three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer was pitching. Not to mention that Flores had never gotten a hit off Scherzer before, the San Francisco Chronicle noted.
But the anticlimactic ending to the momentous playoff clash between the historic rivals angered fans. Reporters and Major Leaguers, including the New York Mets’ Kevin Pillar (a former Giant), chimed in, too.
Check out the reactions of what some called “the check swing heard round the world.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.
Cardinals acquire Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz from Eagles – Sportsnet.ca
The undefeated Arizona Cardinals have added another weapon to their arsenal.
The Cardinals, who are the only 5-0 team in the NFL, acquired three-time Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz from the Philadelphia Eagles on Friday for cornerback Tay Gowan and a 2022 fifth-round draft pick.
Ertz played with the Eagles since they selected him in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He set an NFL record for most receptions by a tight end in a single season with 116 catches and also had a career-high 1,163 yards during the 2018 season. Ertz, who was selected to the Pro Bowl three consecutive years from 2017-19, caught the game-winning touchdown during Super Bowl LII to help the Eagles defeat the New England Patriots 41-33 and capture their first Super Bowl.
“Zach Ertz built a special legacy in Philadelphia,” Eagles chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie said in a statement. “Talented, tough, and passionate, he helped to establish our team’s culture and played a vital role in our success over the years.
“Zach created so many memories that will live on forever, from setting numerous franchise and league records, to reaching across the end zone for the game-winning touchdown in our first-ever Super Bowl championship. He will always be a member of the Eagles family, not only because of what he accomplished on the field, but also because of the wonderful person, dedicated leader, and exemplary role model that he was for nine seasons in Philadelphia. We wish Zach and Julie nothing but the best.”
The 30-year-old Ertz has 18 receptions for 189 yards and two touchdowns in six games this season. Philadelphia lost 28-22 Thursday night to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with Ertz hauling in a touchdown catch.
The Cardinals play the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
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