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The Vancouver Canucks came into Tuesday night’s matchup with a lot to play for. The team has been struggling for over a month now, and this weekend’s performances threw a handful of salt in their wounds. The past week in particular has been horrible for the Canucks, as they have given up 12 even strength goals in their past four games and have only been able to bury six of their own through that four game stretch.

The Montreal Canadiens were well rested for tonight’s game after only playing once in the past five days after playing back-to-back games on the 10th and 11th of December. The Canadiens only game in the past week was against the lowly Detroit Red Wings. They lost 2-1 to a bad Red Wings team in a game that saw the Canadiens control over 70% of attempted shots and outshoot the Wings 43-20, so there was every reason to believe the Canadiens were going to come out flying.

Travis Green made like many Vancouverites and brought out the blender this morning. The forward lines saw a shake-up and the defence pairings were mixed as well.

Lines

A few thoughts ahead of tonight’s game:

  • Jake Virtanen was set to begin the game with the big guns tonight, he had a stretch of this season where he scored five goals in eight games and Canucks fans were hoping he could continue to build on his scoring of late.
  • Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat have played 45 minutes of 5on5 ice time together this season. They post a 44.71% Corsi for percentage and the addition of Antoine Roussel is good for both players as Roussel has a knack for slowing down odd man rushes when he needs to or making the perfect pass to a streaking Horvat on a bullish drive to the net.
  • The defence should look very different tonight as Quinn Hughes and Chris Tanev are back together and will hopefully be able to build on their early season chemistry. Jordie Benn and Troy Stecher are in a similar position as they posted great underlying numbers through the early part of the season but have seen their impressive advanced statistics drop with the recent jumbling’s of the pairs.
  • Oscar Fantenberg has impressed almost every single Canucks fan so far as he still has not been on the ice for a 5-on-5 goal against in over 109 minutes of ice time. He will be strapped with Tyler Myers as the pair can hope to control the shot share and keep the puck out of the net. Myers has been playing a heck of a lot of hockey lately (averaging 23:30 of ice time over the past five games) and I am curious to see if his minutes rise or fall with Fantenberg as his partner.

Thoughts From Fans

A good start, urgency and consistency in the lines is what the fans want. Let’s go.

First Period

This game started out slowly, teams took turns icing the puck and going offside for the first five minutes; but the Canucks were able to string together some shifts in the offensive zone with a good chance for the Miller-Pettersson-Virtanen line. Carey Price was the starter for the Canadiens and though he may not be putting up a 0.920+ save percentage anymore he is still an excellent NHL goalie and seems to always have a good game against the Canucks.

The Canucks received their first power play with 11:37 remaining in the period. The first power play unit went back to having Boeser and Pettersson on their strong sides while Horvat found himself in the bumper position. Jake Virtanen was out there with the second unit but the Canucks were unable to amount any dangerous chances on their first power play attempt.

Jake Virtanen was fitting in nicely with Pettersson and Miller. He looks like he wants to prove that he belongs on one of the Canucks’ top lines, and made a good case with his effort level. Jake drew a penalty with 2:38 remaining in the period and the Canucks got another opportunity for their new look first unit, even though they started this power play with the second unit.

Tyler Myers gave the puck away to Artturi Lehkonen who broke away on a partial break but Myers was bailed out by his goaltender. After a good save by Markstrom, the Canucks set up in the offensive zone and Adam Gaudette wasted no time ripping a wicked wrist shot over Carey Price’s blocker side shoulder. It was officially celly time. 1-0 Canucks after the powerplay goal from the second unit.

The Canucks as a whole were controlling the shot share in the first period and though there weren’t a ton of dangerous chances for either team, it felt like the Canucks were ready for their well-rested opponent. The Canucks did a great job of making the Canadiens take shots from outside the high danger areas.

First Period Intermission

Just one year ago he was writing here at CanucksArmy, but nowadays you can find him between Scotty Rintoul and Dan Murphy on the intermission panel. It was awesome to see Harm do his thing and I think I speak for all Canucks fans when I say he did an amazing job.

Second Period

The second period began at a fast and furious pace. Jacob Markstrom was tested early on and had to make a few nice saves in the period. He had faced 12 shots through 24 minutes and it looked like Marky was just beginning to get Dayal’d in. The period was flying by with the kind of back-and-forth hockey we were expecting from these two teams.

JT Miller was sent in on a breakaway just before the halfway point if the game, he made a move that ended with a forehand shot that was turned away br Carey Price.

A few moments after the chance for the Canucks, the Canadiens broke back the other way and Nick Cousins scored his fifth goal of the season that was setup by Max Domi and Joel Armia. 1-1 After the Canadiens goal.

This game was heating up and my fingers were cramping up trying to keep pace with it.

Tanner Pearson sent in Josh Leivo on a breakaway, he shot one off of Priceโ€™s left side and the rebound flew up in the air while Adam Gaudette patiently waited for it to land before he ripped it into the open net. The Canadiens challenged the goal and it was ruled that Josh Leivo was offside.

The Canucks scored the goal with a delayed penalty on the play and though the Canucks had a goal taken away from them, they were given an opportunity to get it back immediately on the powerplay.

The Canadiens had more zone time on their penalty kill than the Canucks had on their power play, and even after a strong rush to the net by Jake Virtanen, the Canucks were unable to get much pressure.

Shots were 19-15 at the halfway point.

Tyler Myers attempted to clear the puck but it was kept in and we saw another goal scored with Tyler Myers flopping around on the ice. Joel Armia got a loose puck in front of the net and buried it past a sprawling Jacob Markstrom. It looked like Artturi Lehkonen made contact with Jacob Markstrom and the Canucks challenged the goal. After a lengthy review the goal was disallowed due to goaltender interference. 1-1 after two disallowed goals.

With just under five minutes left in the game the Canucks had some of their best shifts of the game. They were able to control the puck in the offensive zone for two full shifts from the Pettersson and Horvat lines. Brock Boeser had the best chance after Tyler Myers made a couple of great plays to keep the puck in at the blue line. Boeser was right on the doorstep when he fired a quick wrist shot into what looked to be the open net until Carey Price flew across the crease and made a huge glove save.

The Canucks were able to fight off some late period pressure from the Canadiens and the game was tied as they were heading into the third period. The Canucks were playing great through 40 minutes, they seemed to match up nicely against the Canadiens and Jacob Markstrom was coming up big when he had to. The Canadiens were able to get some better chances in the second period as you can see from this shot chart.

Two players had to be very happy with their first two periods. Jake Virtanen looked at home with Pettersson and Miller while Chris Tanev looked right at home on Quinn Hughes’ right side. These five players were controlling the pace of play and leading the Canucks in Corsi percentage.

Third Period

Jake Virtanen took a slashing penalty 22 seconds into the period. The Canucks penalty kill would have to fight to kill off this powerplay in a 1-1 hockey game. They were able to shut down the first few zone entries from the Canadiens but Tomas Tatarrrrrr made a nice move to his forehand and scored on a delayed penalty to Tanner Pearson. 2-1 Canadiens after the Tatar goal.

Since there was a delayed penalty on the goal the Canadiens reloaded and they had another two minutes on the powerplay. After a minute of zone time the Canadiens had a broken play that resulted in Jacob Markstrom lunging to his left when the puck took a quick dive to his right and Shea Weber was there to make it a two goal game. 3-1 Canadiens after the Weber goal.

There were 15 minutes remaining in this game and a #TeamLikeThat was getting a whole new meaning.

The Canucks players likely saw some of the criticism directed coach Travis Green after the weekend and it felt like they were really putting in a better effort tonight.

We’ll discuss Travis Green more tomorrow when my article drops…

The Miller-Pettersson-Virtanen line continued to have a great game. They were able to get a few more chances and though the coach has been under some scrutiny over the past week, it seems like Tuesday night’s lines should get some more time together as the team as a whole was skating very well.

The Canucks got another power play with about six minutes remaining. Elias Pettersson fired a shot that took a strange bounce and fluttered over Price, bounced off the crossbar and laid in the crease for a second before being shoved under the goaltender for the whistle.

The Canucks pulled the goalie with three minutes remaining in the period and the Canucks went to work with Pettersson, Miller, Boeser, Horvat, Hughes and Myers. They made a change with two minutes remaining and the game, everyone swapped out but Hughes, because he’s a freak. The Canucks took their timeout with 1:34 remaining and this was looking like another game that slipped away from the Canucks.

Josh Leivo took over for Myers with the first unit and the best chance was an absolute rocket of a point shot from Quinn Hughes. The final seconds ticked away and the Canucks were on the losing end of another tight game.

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Top Performers

Adam Gaudette scored a powerplay goal, a disallowed goal and wasn’t on the ice at the end of the game for any decent length of time. Instead the coach decided to use Josh Leivo once again. Gaudette showed his offensive potential in this game and he was once again good on the forecheck. He was one of the Canucks best players today and should continue to see his ice time rise over the next few weeks.

The trio of Miller, Pettersson and Virtanen was very good tonight. They controlled a high amount of the shot share, had a few great chances and with some more time to develop chemistry this line could be a surprising trio for Canucks fans. These three actually work very well together.

Quinn Hughes was a top performer once again, he played 28:04 tonight (20:28 at 5on5). That’s a career high for the 20-year-old defender, who had just set his previous career high a few days prior against the San Jose Sharks. There’s not much more that can or needs to be said about Hughes. He moved the puck well, had a 63.89 Corsi percentage at evens, and was good in his own zone. He is quickly becoming one of the best defencemen in the league and also making a case to be the best rookie in Canucks history.

Here are the 5-on-5 Corsi numbers.

Wrap-Up

Carey Price was great tonight, the Canucks played a good game of hockey, and if they were able to kill some penalties and/or get some power play goals of their own, this would have been a very different game. They drove the play on Tuesday night, drew more penalties, got good goaltending from Markstrom but still were unable to find a way to get a win.

When you’re going into the third period in a tie game the last thing you want to do is take two penalties in the first two minutes. Unfortunately for the Canucks, that is what they did. Jake Virtanen was great tonight but he did take the first penalty that ultimately resulted in the game winning goal. Jake was great for the remainder of the game and it’s too bad that he took a penalty at such a key moment because it is quite the blemish on what was otherwise one of his best games of the season.

The players will probably leave the arena tonight believing they should have won. They were consistently in the opposition zone throughout the game, resulting in the Canucks outshooting the Canadiens in all three periods. Some games you don’t get the luck that you deserve and some games you don’t deserve the luck you get.

Tonight was a well-played game by a lot of Canucks players, but they were unable to get more than one goal past Carey Price, and when you score one goal you don’t win a lot of games. Carey Price won this game, although the Canucks likely deserved to.