The Warmup

The Vancouver Canucks skated into their Wednesday night matchup against the Dallas Stars on the heels of a big win against Nashville – but also down a couple of centers. With Brandon Sutter and Jay Beagle on the sidelines – and Bo Horvat suffering a brief injury scare at practice – Tyler Graovac made his Vancouver debut. Zack MacEwen was also recalled, but he would watch this one from the pressbox – Loui Eriksson drew back into the lineup instead.

The visiting Stars, meanwhile, were coming off a win the night before in Calgary and a red-hot 4-0-1 November in general – though they’d have a little bit more difficulty choosing their own 18 skaters:

Jeff Paterson provided the rest of the lineup notes via Twitter:

Jacob Markstrom got the start in goal, his first since announcing the death of his father last Sunday. He would face Anton Khudobin – Dallas’ backup goalie, albeit one of the best in the game.

With that, it was time for Armed Forces Appreciation Night – and the very alliterative battle of the BC-born Benn brothers.

1st Period

Recently inserted into the lineup and then elevated by injuries, Adam Gaudette took the game’s opening faceoff – flanked by Sven Baertschi and JT Miller on a new-look third line. Josh Leivo received an extended audition on the top line aside Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser – and that unit produced a good scoring chance and some quality zone time on their first shift of the night.

Jordie Benn struck first in the Battle of the Benns, stepping up to paste Alexander Radulov into the boards on a legal check. Denis Gurianov took exception and challenged Benn to a fight – with the young Russian doing well to avoid too much damage in a bout against a much larger opponent, but still taking at least one good shot to the nose.

Gurianov’s bravery may have sparked his teammates, because the Stars picked up the first goal of the game shortly after play resumed – and this time it would be Jamie Benn getting his name on the scoresheet. He launched a long-distance bomb to Tyler Seguin, who relayed it to a streaking Justin Dowling in the slot. Dowling deftly deked around Markstrom and to the backhand before roofing it to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.

It wouldn’t be long before the Canucks would get an opportunity to tie it up with the first man advantage of the evening. Miller reunited with Bo Horvat, Pettersson, and Boeser on the top unit – but neither they nor the backup crew were able to produce much in the way of chances.

The Canucks maintained some semblance of pressure for several minutes after Seguin exited the box, but didn’t actually do much to test Anton Khudobin – both teams sat with just four shots apiece as the period passed its halfway mark.

Troy Stecher picked up an interference call on a puck battle where the penalty could have gone either way – but the Canucks headed to their first PK of the night regardless. Vancouver’s starting four killers featured two wingers in Loui Eriksson and Tim Schaller – both of whom looked sharp and efficient in keeping the Stars to the outside for more than three-quarters of the penalty. Captain Horvat and Tanner Pearson came out to finish the job with aplomb, even managing to earn a shorthanded odd-man rush.

The rest of the frame expired without much in the way of significant happenings, aside from a couple of moral victories.

After 20 minutes, the Stars had a 10-8 lead in terms of shots – and a 1-0 edge in the significantly more important terms of goals.

Intermission Highlight

This absolute doozy of a trade proposal, and being able to briefly live in the mind-space of such an optimistic individual:

2nd Period

The second period started off about as well as the home team could have hoped for, with Sven Baertschi nearly tucking in a JT Miller setup on the first shift and earning a powerplay in the process. Quinn Hughes made a large contingent of the fanbase very happy by eschewing the drop pass and skating the puck deep into the Dallas zone – though his teammates failed to catch on to the cleverness of his play and the top unit failed to establish themselves. The second unit didn’t get much done, either.

A few minutes later, the Stars doubled their lead when Blake Comeau absolutely walked Troy Stecher and then beat Jacob Markstrom while falling – though Comeau was also injured on the play.

It would not take the Canucks long to strike back. Early on in a shift, Jake Virtanen was challenged to a fight by Jamie Benn after a hit, but declined – only to find himself leading an offensive break into the Stars’ zone seconds later. Virtanen dropped the puck to Tanner Pearson, who fired a shot that Anton Khudobin kicked right back to Virtanen’s stick – and Shotgun Jake made no mistake in cutting Dallas’ lead in half.

Adam Gaudette nearly tied it on a breakaway the next shift, but failed to sneak the puck underneath Khudobin’s pad. The game took a physical turn in the immediate aftermath, with Alexander Radulov delivering an elbow on Baertschi and then Rhett Gardner catching Quinn Hughes with a questionably aggressive and low hit – the latter of which resulted in a tripping penalty.

The Canucks were unsuccessful on their third man advantage of the night – and then Bo Horvat took an iffy slashing call to send the visitors to a powerplay of their own. Again, the Canucks’ winger-heavy PK corps proved equal to the task.

When the play returned to five-on-five, half of the Canucks’ top unit took possession deep in the Dallas zone – and the puck was fed around to the point, allowing Troy Stecher to unleash a shot that beat Khudobin high to tie the game at 2-2. Elias Pettersson and Jordie Benn – tying his brother’s point total on the night – picked up the assists. Josh Leivo and Tanner Pearson provided the screen.

The tie almost survived the rest of the middle frame – but not quite. Seguin made the most of a couple broken plays – driving the puck into the Canucks’ zone and then burying a “pass” that was really more of a deflection off Miro Heiskanen. Jacob Markstrom didn’t have a chance on what was essentially an accidental tic-tac-toe. With 1:31 remaining on the clock, the Stars had gone ahead 3-2 – and that’s where the score would sit after 40 minutes.

Intermission Highlight

Probably the Frozen II trailer, honestly. Pretty much anything other than watching certain corners of #Canucks twitter coming out of the clown car to dump on Jacob Markstrom.

And the wholesomeness of Tommy Larscheid, of course.

3rd Period

Early on in the third period, Elias Pettersson leapt into a broken play and hammered a puck at Anton Khudobin – but the shot went well wide, succeeding only in electrifying the crowd. The game then descended into a lengthy period of fairly safe back-and-forth play – though a close call rebound on a Jake Virtanen shot again brought the fans out of their seats.

Meanwhile, you’ve heard of Vancouver fans being two-faced…but this was ridiculous:

It could be argued that the most exciting moment of the third frame’s first half occurred in the stands. Tommy Larscheid meeting the Larscheiders was a wonderful moment, to be sure, but that’s also a sign of a boring period of hockey.

Alex Edler put Jason Dickinson into the boards from behind and looked like he might be headed to the box – but he escaped unpunished, allowing the home team to continue their attempts to build some semblance of offensive momentum. Virtanen and Adam Gaudette almost converted a turnover into an odd-man scoring chance, but a sharp defensive play from the Dallas defender stymied them heading into the game’s penultimate TV timeout.

With three minutes remaining, Tanner Pearson made a pass from the ice after being driven into the boards – setting up Josh Leivo for a two-on-one with Elias Pettersson that was interrupted by what sure looked like some obstruction. After the lines were changed, Alexander Radulov knocked down a pass as he crossed the Canucks’ bleuline, drove past a sprawling Troy Stecher, and tucked the puck past Jacob Markstrom – putting the visitors ahead 4-2 with not much time left on the clock.

Travis Green pulled Markstrom at the next opportunity, and the Canucks’ netminder took the chance to be a little more vocal than usual – barking at the refs on his way off the ice and then banging his stick against the boards from the bench when he thought the linesmen missed an icing call.

Pettersson deflected a shot past Khudobin with less than a minute remaining, but the puck dropped to the ice and was smothered before crossing the line. That’s as close as the Canucks would get on a night that just didn’t seem to go their way.

The Wrap-Up

The Canucks didn’t necessarily play poorly in this one, but they did put in a lackluster performance against an opponent on the backend of a back-to-back – and they didn’t do anything to earn the win.

The Stars went ahead early and kept control of the game from there – and though Vancouver seemed to drive possession, Dallas prevailed by making the most of their limited chances. Jacob Markstrom didn’t have his best night of the year, but most of the goals against him came after the Dallas skater had blown past a Canuck defender – not exactly the support Markstrom was hoping for in his return to the crease.

All in all, it was a disappointing end to a disappointing three-game homestand – and perhaps an indication that the Canucks haven’t quite seen the end of their November doldrums.

Fancy Stats At A Glance

Gameflow from Canucks vs Dallas November 14, 2019 (courtesy of

Heatmap from Canucks vs Dallas November 14, 2019 (courtesy of

Top Performers

Jordie Benn

Benn set the tone in the game early on with his big fight and the mostly unnecessary fight that followed – and he added an assist later on as a bonus contribution. Otherwise, he played his usual steady brand of defense and avoided getting walked like his fellow blueliners did on several occasions – and he did it with just a little more snarl than usual.

Adam Gaudette

Gaudette didn’t really pick up as much ice-time in Brandon Sutter and Jay Beagle’s absence as one might have expected – playing just 14:31 – but he still managed to break through for several solid scoring chances. With four shots on goal, Gaudette was definitely one of the more active Canucks – and one of the only ones to look as though he had a chance of breaking the game open on Wednesday night.

Jake Virtanen

Virtanen earns a mention here with a goal and a noticeable night in general on the offensive side of things – though it comes with an enormous caveat, as our own Chris Faber pointed out.

It was far from a perfect night for Shotgun Jake, but it was good enough to make him stand out in an otherwise dreary affair.

Next Game

The Canucks will make it their seventh game in 12 nights on Saturday, November 16 at home against the Avalanche. The game will be broadcast on CBC with a start-time of 7:00PM PST.