There’s no better way to put it. The Vegas Golden Knights dominated Game 1 and blew the Vancouver Canucks out of the rink with a 5-0 victory on Sunday. It was a laugher for the Golden Knights, but not so much for Jacob Markstrom and his teammates.
After that beat down, there had to be a concern that the Canucks’ young team had finally run into an immovable object – a faster, stronger, more-experienced Vegas team.
Although that still might prove to be the case, the mood flipped during Game 2. The Canucks came out flying and played a significantly stronger game. Perhaps these experiences are part of the team’s growth, and if so, the Canucks grew a lot in two days. They rebounded to even the series, 1-1, with an impressive 5-2 victory on Tuesday night.
The Canucks often reverted to their old ways – for good or bad – during Game 2, but the effort was much better. The bad, the defense couldn’t stop the Golden Knights from peppering goalie Jacob Markstrom with 40 shots on goal. The good, Markstrom was solid from the start and, although visibly tired by game’s end, he was once again amazing and kept his team in the contest.
In Game 2, Vancouver led 2-0 after the first 11 minutes and had a 4-1 lead early in the third period. Bo Horvat scored two goals, Elias Pettersson and Tyler Toffoli each finished with a goal and two assists, and Markstrom, who was pulled during the third period of Game 1, stopped 38 of the 40 shots. No doubt the Golden Knights remain heavily-favoured to win the series, but at least, now it’s a series.
In this edition of Canucks News & Rumors, I’ll review the Game 2 win. I’ll also look at some of the team’s injuries and give news returning players.
Item One: After 5 Games Off the Score Sheet, Bo Horvat Shows Up Big
Horvat scored twice in Tuesday’s 5-2, Game 2 win. His first goal came on the power play off a great set up from Toffoli and Pettersson. His second goal came early in the third period and allowed fans to breathe easier. I never felt the team was in charge of this game even when they were ahead by two goals.
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Horvat’s second goal came off a huge Golden Knights mistake in their own end. Not only did they turn the puck over, but they all scurried up the ice and left Brock Boeser and Horvat alone in front of their goalie. After a nice pass from Alexander Edler and a touch pass from Boeser, Horvat scored an easy goal.
Horvat’s two goals broke a five-game scoreless streak. He was lights out against the Minnesota Wild in the qualifying round and has really picked up his goal-scoring this postseason. The 25-year-old leads the NHL in postseason goals with eight: he’s also totalled 10 points in 12 postseason games.
Item Two: Tyler Toffoli Scores 3 Points in His First Game Back
Toffoli scored a goal and two assists on Tuesday in his return to the lineup after missing 10 games due to a “lower-body” injury. He proceeded to play Tyler-on-the-spot and opened the scoring at 1:30 into the game.
The 28-year-old had not seen action since Aug. 2, but he gave his team an instant boost. The Canucks had been shutout in Game 1, but Toffoli made sure that wasn’t the case in Game 2. Just nine seconds into his first shift, Pettersson drew the defense and the goalie as he skated the puck around the back of the net. His seeing-eye pass was right on Toffoli’s stick and the result was an easy goal.
Toffoli was put back into a top-6 role and, with Tanner Pearson, gave the Pettersson line plenty of experience. He scored 24 goals and 44 points in 68 games during the regular season, with 10 points in 10 games after arriving in Vancouver at the trade deadline.
In total, Toffoli only skated 14:35 minutes during the game, but those minutes made a huge difference. He later assisted on Horvat’s power-play goal and Pettersson’s even-strength goal.
Toffoli is an extremely valuable fit in the Canucks lineup. He’s been incredible, and with the series tied at one, the Canucks need him to continue to provide offense if they’re going to push the Golden Knights out of this series.
Item Three: Canucks’ Injury Report
Now that Toffoli’s returned, the Canucks have three injuries of note. First, Micheal Ferland has missed 10 straight games. Because he’s left the bubble and isn’t scheduled to return soon, his status for the remainer of the postseason is iffy. If he does return, he needs to self-quarantine inside the Edmonton bubble.
Zack MacEwen didn’t play on Tuesday, and there’s been no update on his status. If he misses tonight’s game, it will be his fifth in a row. His injury is “undisclosed,” so it’s difficult to get a fix on a timeline.
The 24-year-old MacEwen is a power forward and his game would nicely offset to the Golden Knights’ physicality. However, he’s only averaged 7:35 of ice time and hasn’t scored a point in six postseason games.
Tyler Myers remains out with a “slightly-separated” shoulder, and his recovery time remains a mystery. However, the last word is that he is probably unavailable for Game 3 tonight. The 30-year-old defenseman’s absence tests the Canucks’ depth and he’s missed.
What’s Next for the Canucks?
The Canucks play again this evening. Can the team keep showing its speed and skill by beating the Golden Knights to open pucks? If so, there’s a chance Game 3 might end in the Canucks’ favour.
By the way, Tuesday’s game was the first time in Golden Knights’ franchise history that they’d lost in regulation to the Canucks. Vegas’ all-time record against Vancouver is now 9-1-2, but this Canucks team feels different somehow.
It will help if the Canucks can keep their edge. During the Golden Knights’ convincing Game 1 win, there was a montage of video shots of Vegas players laughing at and taunting the Canucks. That experience should be motivation for the team to push harder.