The Canucks came into Wednesday night’s tilt to take on the Crosbyless Pittsburgh Penguins. The lineup was due for a shake up after their horrendous performance at 5-on-5 over the past 5 games. Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson were split up to start a game for the first time this season and that resulted in a top six group that consisted of Pettersson-Miller-Goldobin and Pearson-Horvat-Boeser.
#Canucks lines and pairs are all mixed up:
— Thomas Drance (@ThomasDrance) November 27, 2019
The top six wasn’t the only part of the lineup that saw changes as Travis Green also switched up all three defense pairings, placing Quinn Hughes with Tyler Myers, Jordie Benn with Chris Tanev and Alex Edler with Troy Stecher.
Jacob Markstrom was the scheduled starter for this game but as the day went on he was not feeling well and that resulted in another start for Thatcher Demko.
Nikolay Goldobin made his 2019-20 Canucks debut as he jumps up to the NHL to play alongside JT Miller and Elias Pettersson. Canucks fans were excited to see what Goldobin would bring to this Canucks lineup!
— TronDust (@tronison) November 28, 2019
Early on there were a few icing calls back to back and then the Pittsburgh Penguins broke the 0-0 lead when Jake Guentzel scored off a Evgeni Malkin faceoff win. He released a wicked wrist shot that found its way behind Demko and the Penguins took an early 1-0 lead.
The Canucks were unable to get anything going early on in this game. The Penguins were able to keep the Canucks in their own zone for most of the first five minutes. Demko has to use all of himself to keep the lead at 1-0 and that included a save with his mask on a point shot with a ton of traffic in front of him.
There were a handful of icing calls in the first half of the period which really made the game drag early on. When the game took its first commercial break with 9:13 remaining in the period the Canucks were without a shot on net. This was eye opening as the Canucks only had 17 shots in the whole game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday. The only line that had any amount of offensive zone time seemed to be the Leivo-Gaudette-Virtanen line though they were unable to mount any sustained pressure.
The new defence pairings looked like they haven’t played much together in the past, which they haven’t. Many passes between the defencemen were in their partners skates or missed them completely. It looked like it could be a long night for the Canucks early on in this one.
Bo Horvat took a shoulder to the face from Dominik Simon and looked to be a bit woozy as he made his way to the bench. He was chirping at the referees at the next whistle and seemed to shake off the headshot.
Troy Stecher took an interference penalty as he stepped in front of Evgeni Malkin on a rush up the boards and the Penguins had an opportunity to continue their outpouring of offense against the Canucks.
That ended up being exactly what they did, as Bryan Rust scored on the Penguins first power play of the game. A pass went past two swipes from Alex Edler in front of the net and Thatcher Demko had no chance on the cross ice pass that was directly onto Rust’s stick. 2-0 Penguins.
With 6 minutes and 10 seconds left in the first period the Canucks registered their first shot of the game. It wasn’t really a shot as the Canucks just slid it in past Matt “Lucky Goal” Murray.
The Canucks were struggling all period just to get the puck out and it seemed like the team couldn’t put together two or three passes in a row to escape their own zone. The Canucks needed to start skating more and draw a penalty or do something to try and swing the momentum in their favour. It was the worst first period I have seen from this Canucks team all season long.
Quinn Hughes made an amazing play in the neutral zone by stepping up on the Penguins defenceman. He came in on a two on one and made a pass across to JT Miller who made no mistake and he scored on a nice move to the backhand. Bo Horvat was also credited with an assist on the goal and the score was 2-1 Penguins.
— Sportsnet 650 (@Sportsnet650) November 28, 2019
Elias Pettersson took a delay of game penalty with 1:42 remaining in the period and the Canucks wanted to get to the dressing room only down one goal. JT Miller was good on the penalty kill as his active stick and shot blocking ability was able to clear the puck but the Penguins were able to gain the zone with ease and set up their power play on every attempt.
The period finished with a wild scramble in front of Demko as the Pens tried to bank it off of him from behind the net. The Canucks should have been ecstatic that they were down by just a goal after their performance in the first period.
The second period began with the Canucks killing off the final 18 seconds of the powerplay after a couple of freaky bounces that almost caught Demko off guard. The Canucks got some zone possession after the kill and Pettersson rang one off of the crossbar as the Canucks looked to bounce back from there tough first period.
The Canucks had more shots in the first four minutes of the second period than they did in the entire first period. The team came out with a lot more energy and was able to make some good passes to set up in the offensive zone. The lines were just beginning to go into the blender and Elias Pettersson found himself with Brock Boeser and Jake Virtanen on his wings.
Jake Virtanen and Elias Pettersson made a great give and go play off of an amazing stretch pass from Quinn Hughes. Petey made no mistake when he was given a bit of space and matched JT Miller with his 11th of the season. Two 5on5 assists for Quinn Hughes so far and the Canucks tied the game up 2-2.
— Sportsnet 650 (@Sportsnet650) November 28, 2019
The pace of play definitely sped up in the second period. The Canucks were able to keep up with the pace of play and finally get some zone time. After Travis Green moved back to Horvat-Miller and Pettersson-Boeser the team seemed to find offensive zone chemistry. The game was tied and the momentum was beginning to swing back in the Canucks direction.
Jake Virtanen was very active in the second period. He was even roughing it up with former Canuck Jared McCann at one point in the second period which was a weird moment for me personally. Jake was playing alongside Boeser and Horvat at times and also found himself beside Miller and Horvat throughout the second period. Jake made a good pass on the Pettersson goal and was being rewarded with some good opportunities with great players.
Jake Virtanen found himself in another good situation when he flew by Kris Letang during a 2-on-2. Zack MacEwen made a great leading pass that Jake Virtanen scored on as he made a move to his backhand and buried it. The bench came to life and the Canucks now led 3-2
As fast as I could type the Canucks could score as they jammed away in front of the net and Adam Gaudette was able to score and the Canucks were now doubling up the Pens 4-2 as the second period ticked away.
The Canucks were on another planet in the second period and that resulted in Matt Murray being pulled in favour of Tristan Jarry. The second period expired and the Canucks skated off with a 4-2 lead after a tremendous performance at 5-on-5. The first period may have been one of their worsts of the year but they followed it up with some good puck luck in the second and came away with all the momentum after the Pens made a goalie change.
Before I could finished my second intermission coffee the Penguins top scorer struck again as Jake Guentzel was able to score on a long backhand and the Canucks saw their 2 goal lead disappear and the Penguins trailed 4-3.
The Canucks would immediately get to the powerplay and the after a wild first 30 seconds of powerplay action which included the worst drop pass of the season, JT Miller scored a weird one where he shot it from the right side and it went up in the air and behind Jarry. The Canucks lead 5-3..
34 seconds of play went on and then Adam Gaudette came down the left side of the ice on another 2-on-2 rush and buried his second of the game on a wrist shot off of the post and in. The Canucks now lead 6-3.
Kris Letang, who was having a horrible game, took a penalty with 14:49 and the Canucks were electric before taking a penalty of their own with 1:03 remaining in the powerplay. Quinn Hughes was skating like the wind and gaining the zone with ease. Miller fired one off the crossbar and nearly missed his hattrick goal before taking a penalty.
The Penguins would win the faceoff at 4-on-4 and the Pens scored quickly after a good play from Jared McCann that resulted in a Dominik Kahun goal. 6-4 Canucks.
The Pens had a 57 second power play after the brief 4-on-4. The roof almost blew off the arena when Evgeni Malkin walked in and wired a wicked slap shot that went top corner over Demko’s shoulder. 6-5 Canucks.
There were 12 and a half minutes remaining and it felt like the fans were trying to take over the game. Pittsburgh was bumping and the Canucks needed to find a way to match the Pens offensive outburst in the third.
The Penguins continued their pressure and it resulted in Alex Edler breaking his stick and Zach Aston-Reese tied the game. 6-6.
— Sportsnet 650 (@Sportsnet650) November 28, 2019
With 9:22 remaining, it was anyone’s game.
The Pens had all the momentum and the arena was going nuts. The Canucks already had 6 goals but they would need to get at least one more goal past a Penguins goalie.
Bryan Rust and Elias Pettersson both took a holding penalty as they got tied up at the blueline with 8:21 remaining in the game and we were treated to some more 4-on-4. There was some exciting back-and-forth action through the course of 4-on-4 but no team was able to break the 6-6 tie.
With 3:06 to go the Penguins scored after a tremendous shift from Malkin and Guentzel. Kris Letang came in and wired a one timer by Demko to take the lead late in the third. Travis Green decided to challenge the goal for offside and after a long review the play was determined to be onside and the Pens led 7-6 with three minutes to go.
The result of the failed coaches challenge meant that the Penguins were on the powerplay. The Canucks players now had to kill off a powerplay and then hope to get something going with one minute remaining in the game.
Malkin scored an empty net goal with 0.2 seconds remaining, capping off a 5-point night. Penguins win 8-6.
This was a tough game to lose. The Canucks led 6-3 with 14 minutes to go in the game and Travis Green deserves a lot of the criticism that we saw on social media Wednesday night. The forwards played well tonight but it seemed that the Penguins’ star players were able control the pace of play when they were on the ice. Malkin and Guentzel looked like sharks during a feeding frenzy and helped dominate the shot share tonight.
The Canucks got scored on 8 times tonight, 7 of which were on Demko, and he didn’t even have a horrible night. Defensively the Canucks were a disgrace tonight, Travis Green put the team on the penalty kill with three minutes remaining, and they struggled mightily in their own end. All in all, it was a pretty disastrous performance. The Penguins dominated when they wanted to and the Canucks were severely outplayed throughout this one.
A final good note would be Quinn Hughes’ three points, who is now about all other rookies in points aside from Cale Makar.