Coming out of Tuesdays 3-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils, the Vancouver Canucks were looking to show what they're made of against the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight in the second match up of their five game road trip. Also looking to prove his worth was Alex Biega who found himself filling in for Philip Larsen tonight.
With Jonathan Drouin and Jason Garrison back from injuries, the Lightning were looking to get on the scoreboard early and pick up a win at home after two days off.
The Canucks also had to worry about a red hot Nikita Kucherov. He's been picking up the slack for Tampa Bay while Steven Stamkos has been out of commission for the past 11 games. His 29 points give him the second most in the league after Connor McDavid, who has 36.
Ryan Miller got the start tonight against Ben Bishop and both would prove to be key players in this game for completely different reasons.
Tampa Bay played well to start the game, keeping Vancouver hemmed in their own zone and keeping them without a shot in the first four minutes of action.
Jack Skille made his teams first shot count at the end of his shift when he found himself going to the net against Nikita Kucherov instead of a defenceman. He was able to muscle past Kucherov and put the puck high on Ben Bishop for his first of the season and as a Canuck.
After the goal, Vancouver found their stride and were looking increasingly dangerous. The Canucks showed a strong forecheck and were doing well to capitalize on the turnovers they created.
Tampa Bay's forwards still showed off their high level talent and Vancouver did well to get in front of their chances. Ryan Miller in particular was making some strong positional saves to keep the lead intact. This save came later in the period but one of his best.
Just before the 10 minute mark of the period, Erik Gudbranson continued the trend that Jack Skille started with HIS first goal as a Canuck. Shooting the puck off the end boards, the bouncing puck hit Ben Bishops pad and was redirected into the net.
It wasn't pretty, but he'll take it.
Vancouver continued to hold their own defensively as well as offensively when a strong shift by the line of Markus Granlund, Loui Eriksson and Jayson Megna resulted in a slashing penalty on Alex Killorn.
Miller continued to play well as the period came to a close. He looked very calm against all 12 shots and was reading the play around him at all times.
Despite the Canucks entering the period with the man advantage, Vancouver still wasn't able to get a shot on net.
Following the fruitless power play, Brendan Gaunce got himself a hooking penalty and let Tampa Bay's 4th ranked power play take the ice. The Lightning made some great plays and had some fantastic chances on net, but Ryan Miller continued to hold his ground and keep the puck out of the net.
After the penalty kill, Vancouver stepped up their offensive zone play once again and scored on their first shot of the period. The Sedins showed off their cycle game and brought Tampa Bay deeper into their zone to give both Nikita Tryamkin and Alex Biega some space on the blueline. After a few quick passes, Alex Biega's shot was deflected by Jayson Megna and past Ben Bishop.
Ryan Miller continued to show off his strong play this game following the third goal. The Lightning stepped up their offensive effort and forced Miller to make some fantastic saves under pressure.
Miller makin' it look easy. pic.twitter.com/QQWAxxPney— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) December 9, 2016
The game continued it's back and forth pace as both teams exchanged chances. Ultimately though, Tampa Bay found a way to get on the board after their consistent effort. Jonathon Drouin made no mistake when he found a rebound on his stick right in front of the net.
The tempo of the game built up to a frenzy after the goal with both teams creating some brilliant chances. After some great shifts at both ends, the Canucks found themselves on the power play once again. However, the extra man continues to be an area in need of improvement for this team.
In the last few seconds of the second period, Vancouver found a way to increase their lead to 4-1 when Daniel Sedin set up Jayson Megna alone against Ben Bishop. Closing in on the net, Megna went upstairs to beat Bishop as he came across the net to cover the shot.
Ben Bishop got the pull to start the third period and the Canucks would be facing Andrei Vasilevskiy for the final 20 minutes.
The strong play continued on both ends of the ice as we saw strong chances from both teams. Even the fourth line got a few shots on net!
After Ben Hutton's delay of game penalty, Ryan Miller made one of his best saves of the night on Bryan Boyle. He's been playing out of his mind tonight.
After killing the penalty, the Canucks fought off more and more shots from the attacking Lightning players. Time and time again, they were neutralized by the play of Ryan Miller.
With 6 minutes left in the game, the fourth line had another crack at the net. Brendan Gaunce entered the zone and fed the puck over to Jack Skille who put it away off the post for his second of the game and the season.
After the goal, Ryan Miller left the game despite the lack of a noticeable injury. After making 38 saves and playing a phenomenal game, he was replaced by Jacob Markstrom. After the game, Willie Desjardins confirmed that the injury was nothing serious.
"Miller felt sore and maybe twisted something, but he should be fine." - Coach Desjardins— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) December 9, 2016
Jacob Markstrom was put to work when Tampa Bay went to the power play. He was quick to get into the game and made some strong plays to keep lead at 5-1.
As the game wound down, Vancouver did well to nullify any potential offence from Tampa Bay and ended it with a win thanks to some big goals from unexpected players and stellar goaltending from Ryan Miller.