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I Watched This Game: Pettersson breaks out in big Canucks win over Capitals – Vancouver Is Awesome

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The Vancouver Canucks’ road trip was not going to plan. The Canucks were looking to make a statement against some of the top teams in the NHL, but through three games that statement appeared to be, “These teams are better than we are.”

On Sunday, the Canucks were facing another of the NHL’s best teams, the 7th-in-the-NHL Washington Capitals. They were doing so on the second half of back-to-backs in an afternoon game with one of their best forwards — Conor Garland — out on the NHL’s COVID protocol and with Thatcher Demko playing his fourth game in six nights.

That’s not typically a recipe for success but the Canucks bucked the odds thanks partly to a complete effort from the entire team but, more specifically, thanks to a breakthrough performance from Elias Pettersson.

The team’s franchise forward hasn’t exactly been playing like a franchise forward this season, unless you consider “getting fans’ hopes up and then leaving them bitterly disappointed” as a pretty accurate representation of the Canucks franchise.

Pettersson’s struggles culminated with a game on Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes where pretty much everything that could go wrong did go wrong. He had some terrible giveaways, accidentally blocked what looked like a sure goal, took a skate to the face, hit the post on his best scoring chance, and snapped his stick in half on another chance, after which he got tripped by the goaltender and went crashing into the boards with no penalty call.

It seemed like there was nowhere to go but up for Pettersson and he went way, way up against the Capitals, scoring two enormous goals to lead the Canucks to the win.

“We don’t have a lot of natural scorers on our team,” said head coach Bruce Boudreau, “Hopefully, it’s not an anomaly or a one-off and he can continue to do this and then that’ll make it an awful lot easier on us.”

Of course, Boudreau had previously said that Pettersson’s game was rounding into form and that the scoring was on its way.

“When you start getting chances — he hit the post last game and he had a couple of breakaways the game before — it was inevitable that he was going to score at some point,” said Boudreau.

Pettersson, for his part, wasn’t worried. 

“I know what I’m capable of,” said Pettersson. “Of course, it’s been tough for me. I’m trying to play my best hockey every game, and it’s been been a slow start.”

With limited media access due to COVID this season, Pettersson hasn’t been grilled by the media about his struggles all that much, so it wasn’t surprising that he was asked about his confidence. At one point, when he was again asked about mental aspect of his struggles, he muttered, “Oh, so it’s just gonna be questions like that.”

That’s a bit of the death-stare Pettersson from earlier in his career popping up and it’s honestly nice to see some of that confident bite back. But also, yeah, it’s going to be questions like that when you go from being a near point-per-game player with strong two-way play and a dominant playoff run under your belt to putting up 19 points in 38 games. 

Pettersson is too good of a player to be kept quiet forever but even the biggest believers in Pettersson had to have their confidence rattled a little bit by his struggles this season. 
 
Hopefully, this is just the start of a Pettersson renaissance. Frankly, I don’t think there’s any hope of the Canucks beating the odds and making the playoffs unless Pettersson regains his form and becomes the Canucks’ best forward like he has been in the past.

With Pettersson excelling, it was a lot more pleasant when I watched this game.

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  • It should be noted that while the Canucks were playing on the second half of back-to-backs, so were the Capitals. Also, the Canucks were missing Garland due to COVID protocol but the Capitals were missing John Carlson, who is tied for 6th in the NHL among defencemen in scoring, for the same reason. Maybe that all balances out.
     
  • A big reason for the three-straight losses on this road trip was the power play going 0-for-12 in those three games, so it was great to see them go 2-for-4 tonight. Of course, that was countered by the penalty kill giving up two goals on two Capitals power plays, so you can’t really say that special teams were the difference.
     
  • Before going 2-for-2 against the Canucks, the Capitals had gone 3-for-33 on the power play in their last 10 games and were 28th in the NHL overall in power play percentage. Despite their firepower up front, the Capitals have had one of the worst power plays in the NHL this season but you wouldn’t know it from Sunday’s game. 
     
  • “We’re all concerned about the penalty kill,” said Boudreau. “It’s great that you score power play goals and it was largely overdue…but we’ve got to shore up the penalty kill because I’m a big believer that if you can have your special teams in the top 10 in both categories, you’re usually a playoff team and you’re usually a tough team to beat.”
     
  • Alex Ovechkin opened the scoring with a classic Ovechkin goal: a one-timer from the top of the left faceoff circle. There’s not much shame in giving up a goal like that to Ovechkin — he’s the greatest goalscorer in NHL history for a reason — but it was his third shot attempt from the exact same spot on that power play. Allowing three one-timers from the Ovi spot is like standing around in the open while Steven Seagal ever-so-slowly snipes all of the people around you — eventually, he’s going to get you. 
     
  • “I wouldn’t look at [Ovechkin] and he was looking right at me and I said, ‘No more,’” said Boudreau. “If he played against me every day, he’d probably have 110 goals a year. He gets up for it. Seriously, if it wasn’t for Demmer — Ovi had, on one shift, he had two great looks on two-on-ones, he had a couple great looks in the third period.”
     
  • This was an outstanding game by the line of Tanner Pearson, J.T. Miller, and Brock Boeser, particularly in terms of puck possession. When they were on the ice together at 5-on-5, shot attempts were 22-to-8 for the Canucks, as they spent long shifts in the offensive zone. Pearson’s work on the forecheck was phenomenal, repeatedly winning the puck down low below the goal line.
     
  • The only issue is that line couldn’t put the puck in the net. Pearson had the line’s best chance in the final minute of the first period, as J.T. Miller gave him a wide-open net but his stick was checked at the last second by Capitals defenceman Matt Irwin and his shot was sliding wide before it was cleared away by Aliaksei Protas.
     
  • Pettersson responded for the Canucks with his own power play goal in the second period. After a stint as the net-front presence on the power play — an interesting experiment that largely failed because the Canucks never play the puck down low on the power play — Pettersson was moved back to the top of the right faceoff circle where he ought to be at the end of Saturday’s game and started there on Sunday. As 38 Special would say to him, “I want you back where you belong.”
     
  • Pettersson’s goal wasn’t a mirror image of Ovechkin’s — instead of a one-timer blast, Pettersson instead made a patient play to step around the defenceman charging out to take away the shooting lane and whipped the puck off the short-side post and in. Like everything in the frame of a Wes Anderson movie, it was perfectly placed.  
     
  • A few minutes later, Pettersson made it 2-1 but the goal came after a strong shift by the Miller line that didn’t allow the Capitals to change. That allowed Pettersson and his linemates, Nils Höglander and Bo Horvat to buzz around the offensive zone until a point shot from Oliver Ekman-Larsson created a rebound. Pettersson’s first shot on the rebound was stopped but then he called bank and put the puck off the backside of goaltender Ilya Samsonov and in.
     
  • Garnet Hathaway had a very stupid game for the Capitals. He took a ridiculously unnecessary penalty for knocking Ekman-Larsson’s helmet off, leading to the Canucks’ game-winning goal but his far worse offence was this elbow to the head of Tyler Motte completely away from the play. Hathaway got a two-minute minor that probably should’ve been a five-minute major and he ought to get a suspension out of it too.
  • Horvat gave the Canucks the 3-1 lead with a fantastic shot from the bumper on the power play. He was helped by the threat of Pettersson’s shot: he just missed the net on a one-timer a moment earlier, so the penalty kill was cheating towards him. That left Horvat a little bit more room for a one-timer of his own that went short side on Samsonov.
     
  • Miller’s pass on Horvat’s goal deserves another look because Miller didn’t give Horvat another look. He was looking towards Boeser down low the entire time, completely fooling penalty killer Nick Jensen, who swung his stick to block a pass to Boeser that never came, opening up the passing lane to Horvat on the inside.
  • The Capitals mirrored Horvat’s goal with their own power play marker from the bumper. This time, the pass did go down low: Nicklas Backstrom passed to Evgeny Kuznetsov below the goal line, who relayed to Tom Wilson for the finish, with Tyler Myers and Jason Dickinson a step slow to prevent the shot. 
     
  • While the Canucks gave up two power play goals, they were much stingier defensively at 5-on-5 and they capably closed out the rest of the third period, protecting the one-goal lead until the final minute, when Boeser beat out an icing and centred for a Miller empty-net goal to seal the win, with Pearson getting the second assist. It was a fitting finish for a dominant effort by that line.  

 

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Instigator call the turning point in Rangers’ Game 4 win over Hurricanes – Sportsnet.ca

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Yep. They picked up right where they left off.

Game 3 between the New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes ended with tensions high and there was some obvious carryover into Tuesday’s Game 4 at Madison Square Garden that saw the Blue Shirts even the series with a 4-1 victory.

Whistles were few and far in between during a frenetic first half of the opening period as both teams traded chances. The Rangers controlled much of the high-paced action and eventually began winning more puck battles than the Hurricanes.

Then the key turning point of Game 4 occurred.

Jacob Trouba absolutely walloped Max Domi near the penalty boxes with a hard hit at the 11:38 mark.

Steven Lorentz was in the vicinity when the open-ice hit was delivered. Instead of merely taking Trouba’s number, Lorentz immediately came to the defence of his teammate and dropped the mitts with Trouba in a rare playoff scrap.

Trouba unquestionably contacted Domi’s head, just as the Hurricanes’ forward’s feet were sliding out from beneath him mind you, yet the officials deemed it a clean hit.

The sequence resulted in an instigator call on Lorentz.

Carolina’s bench, plus head coach Rod Brind’Amour, were visibly upset when Trouba only received five for fighting.

Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant told the broadcast at the first intermission “it was a great hit” before adding “Domi had his head down a little bit.”

Domi, of course, was involved in the rough stuff at the end of that heated Game 3 over the weekend.

The instigator call certainly seemed to affect the Hurricanes on the penalty kill and the Rangers capitalized with Lorentz in his team’s locker room as part of the 2-5-10 he was assessed.

Carolina was relatively sloppy while a man down and a turnover in their own end led to a missed opportunity to clear the zone. That led to Adam Fox patiently making a cross-ice saucer pass to Andrew Copp who neatly slide the puck to Frank Vatrano and the winger beat Antti Raanta low glove to open the scoring.

Brind’Amour, while wanting his players to be more disciplined, was fairly subdued in his post-game comments. He did mention he thought Trouba should’ve been given a cross-checking minor for getting his stick up on Lorentz prior to the brief punch-up.

“We’re not out there to catch guys (with their heads down) or play stupid or anything like that,” Copp said of Trouba’s hit after the game. “We’re just trying to finish our checks when we’re there and play physical when we can and make smart decisions. At the end of the day, them taking the two minutes changed the course of the game. … It’s not headhunting at all. It’s a good hit and their response warranted a penalty.”

Copp added his second assist of the period moments later when Fox, who leapfrogged Cale Makar for the active post-season lead in points among blueliners, tipped in his fourth of the playoffs on a Ryan Lindgren shot.

Lindgren, who has been excellent for the Rangers since returning to the lineup, was named the second star thanks to his two-assist night. Copp and Vatrano, both acquired in March trades, were named first and third stars of the game, respectively.

While there’s plenty of blame to go around on the Carolina side of the equation, Raanta’s performance is not why the series is even as it shifts back to PNC Arena.

Raanta did allow four goals on 28 shots, sure, however he also made a handful of highlight-reel saves to keep his team in it.

Alexis Lafreniere and Artemi Panarin were both separately stopped by Raanta on breakaway backhand deke attempts and he flashed the leather on Chris Kreider, yet his best of the night was against Mika Zibanejad.

The bigger concern for Carolina continued to be the lacklustre power play. It was only 5-for-43 in the playoffs prior to Game 4 where the issues persisted.

Carolina didn’t have trouble entering the zone when a man up. It’s just they couldn’t do much beyond moving the puck around the perimeter once the zone was established.

Their first man advantage of Game 4 occurred midway through the second period although the best scoring chance and only shot on goal during that PP was generated by the Rangers.

Brind’Amour’s group couldn’t get anything going with Lafreniere in the box serving a goalie interference minor early in the final frame either and they finished the night 0-for-2.

The Hurricanes were down by three goals heading into the third period and to say putting three behind Ilya Shesterkin in a single period is a tall task would be an understatement.

The soon-to-be Vezina Trophy winner had his shutout bid ended by Teuvo Teravainen in the third but that’s all Carolina could muster.

Brind’Amour didn’t even bother pulling his goalie in the final few minutes with the score 4-1.

There was some more pushing and shoving at the final horn with Ryan Reeves giving Domi the business – which was likely more fallout from the Game 3 rough stuff – but nothing escalated further.

The Hurricanes are winless on the road this post-season but perfect at home so they’ll appreciate Game 5 is scheduled for Thursday in Raleigh, N.C.

This series is now officially a best-of-three.

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Oilers push Flames to brink of elimination behind Nugent-Hopkins, Kane's 4 combined goals – CBC Sports

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Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored his second goal of the night with 3:27 left in regulation as the Edmonton Oilers defeated the Calgary Flames 5-3 on Tuesday to take a 3-1 lead in the teams’ second-round playoff series.

Evander Kane, with his NHL-best 11th and 12th of the post-season, and Zach Hyman had the other goals for Edmonton, which got 29 saves from Mike Smith. Leon Draisaitl added three assists.

Connor McDavid also had two assists to give him a league-topping 25 points in 11 playoff outings this spring for the Oilers, who kept their foot on the gas with a third straight victory over their provincial rival.

Elias Lindholm, Mikael Backlund and Rasmus Andersson, on a short-handed goal from his own end in the third period to tie proceedings 3-3, replied for Calgary, which will look to stave off elimination in the first post-season Battle of Alberta in 31 years Thursday at home in Game 5.

Jacob Markstrom stopped 21 shots.

“The main thing was that we had to keep pushing,” Nugent-Hopkins said after Rasmus Andersson scored short-handed from 150 feet away to claw the visitors all the way back from a 3-0 deficit. “Stuff like that happens, it’s hockey. Bounces happen.

“There was no quit.”

Edmonton interim head coach Jay Woodcroft credited Nugent-Hopkins, who was playing just the 32nd playoff game of his 11-season career, for stepping up with the team wobbling.

“It’s inspiring,” said Woodcroft, whose Oilers are now one win from making the Western Conference final for the first time since 2006. “There’s room for greatness from everybody on our team.

“Tonight was Ryan’s moment.”

After trailing 3-0 after the first period and 3-2 through 40 minutes, Calgary improbably knotted things in the third on an Edmonton power play when Andersson fired a 150-foot clearing attempt from his own end that somehow fooled Smith at 10:56 and stunned Rogers Place.

WATCH | Flames’ Andersson scores short-handed goal from distance:

Flames’ Andersson scores short-handed goal with shot from 132 feet away

9 hours ago

Duration 1:08

Calgary defenceman Rasmus Andersson blasts a shot from his defensive end and beats Oilers goalie Mike Smith to tie Game 4 at 3-3 in the third period.

But with the Oilers wobbling, Nugent-Hopkins shovelled home his fourth of the playoffs from Markstrom’s doorstep to send the nervous crowd into a frenzy.

Andersson then took a four-minute penalty for high-sticking with 2:40 left to effectively kill off the game before Kane iced it into an empty net.

“I can laugh now, right?” a relieved Smith said as throngs of Edmonton fans cheered wildly on the street outside the Oilers Hall of Fame Room where the team conducts its media availabilities. “I don’t think there’s been a time in my career where I’ve lost the puck, where I have no idea where it went.

“You don’t want that to happen … ever. It was an unbelievable goal by Nuge at the end there … a win is a win.”

WATCH | Nugent-Hopkins leads Oilers to big victory over Flames:

Oilers within 1 game of advancing past Flames with Nugent-Hopkins’ winner

9 hours ago

Duration 1:03

Edmonton takes a 3-1 series lead over Calgary in their second round series with a 5-3 victory in Game 4, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scores twice including the game-winning goal.

Edmonton also held a 2-1 series lead in the first round against the Los Angeles Kings only to play what the Oilers described as their worst performance of the month in a 4-0 loss.

They won’t be thrilled with this Game 4 either, but got the victory for a stranglehold on the series.

“We all believe in this group,” Andersson said. “We’ve been a good team all year and we’ve been strong on home ice. We’ve just got to go home and focus on winning one game and take it from there.

“Obviously we’re in a tough situation.”

Markstrom’s struggles, Oilers’ early lead

Markstrom, who had allowed 14 goals in the series before getting pulled after two periods with Calgary trailing Sunday’s Game 3 by a 4-0 score line, played the puck behind his own net on the first shift, but put it right on Nugent-Hopkins’ stick for him to bury his third inside a deafening arena.

The goal was the third-fastest in Oilers’ playoff history, just short of McDavid (19 seconds in 2020) and Fernando Pisani (16 seconds in 2006).

One of three finalists for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top netminder, Markstrom recovered to deny Darnell Nurse on a chance a couple minutes later before Smith was at full stretch on a Johnny Gaudreau one-time chance.

Calgary winger Tyler Toffoli then took a tripping penalty and the Oilers made the visitors pay when Hyman outmuscled a hobbled Chris Tanev — back in the lineup for the first time since Game 6 of the opening round despite a suspected upper-body injury — in tight to bury his fifth goal of the series and seventh of the playoffs at 9:53.

The Flames, who topped the Pacific Division in the regular season, pushed back with a couple of decent shifts, but Kane, who was coming off a natural hat trick in Game 3, made it 3-0 with 66 seconds remaining in the period on a shot that nicked off blue-liner Nikita Zadorov.

Calgary finally showed some life on slick power play in the second with Kane off for slashing, and Lindholm eventually picked the top corner for his fifth at 9:04 after the Oilers twice failed to clear the defensive zone.

Backlund got the Flames within one at 3-2 just 36 seconds later when he stepped past Duncan Keith and fired his fourth past Smith.

Smith made a good stop on a Lindholm power-play chance early in the third before the home side got its second man-advantage with 11 minutes left in regulation.

Markstrom kept his team within striking distance with a terrific pad stop on Draisaitl, who became the first player in NHL history to register three-plus points in four straight playoff games with an assist on the Oilers’ empty-net goal.

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Button believes Vasilevskiy is the best in the business: 'There's not even a debate' – TSN

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The BarDown Podcast

A hockey podcast that doesn’t talk about last night’s scores. The BarDown podcast will investigate, uncover and explore long-form stories at the intersection of sports, pop culture, technology. We’re answering the hockey questions that no one asked.

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