The Vancouver Canucks are in a desperate need of wins right now. This teams hopes for the postseason will be in ruins if they can’t find a way to get real competitive, real fast.
Unfortunately, the Canucks were visiting the Pittsburgh Penguin tonight. The Penguins are 15-1-2 in last 18 home games. They also have Matt Murray, who's “rookie” season is a very respectable 20-6-2.
Pittsburgh were also getting an elite player back in their lineup tonight with Evgeni Malkin’s return. Having missed seven games since playing St. Louis in Jan. 24th, Malkin was looking to make an impact on home ice.
Added to this brewing pot of trouble, Vancouver announced that both Brandon Sutter and Bo Horvat would be out of the lineup. Due to these injuries, Brendan Gaunce got the call from Utica and Alex Biega would be taking the ice as a forward tonight.
As we all know, things don’t always go as expected when it comes to sports.
But, in this case, they did.
Jayson Megna, Jannik Hansen and Reid Boucher were trying their best to fill the void left by Horvat and Sutter’s absence in the first period. The three of them generated some nice scoring chances and had a nose for the net.
It wasn’t long before shots were piling up in this game. Both goalies found themselves tested time and time again in the opening frame, but were up to the task.
It didn’t take long to see the Canucks were certainly missing Horvat and Sutter when it came to face off wins and a lack of possession. While the Canucks worked hard to get on the board, they were definitely outmatched by one of the hottest teams in the league.
Ryan Miller made a tremendous save on Jake Guentzel's shot with just under 7 minutes left in the period.
While both teams were getting shots from some prime scoring areas, the net minders were intent to keep zeros the scoreboard.
He saw them all, he stopped them all. 14 saves for Miller in a scoreless 1st period. pic.twitter.com/65OsGZVqU8— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) February 15, 2017
Despite a quick pace to begin the period, there weren’t a lot of shots to show for it. The first Canucks chance came when Brendan Gaunce showed some great awareness and near the side of the net but couldn’t beat Murray on the short side.
Six minutes into the second, Evgeni Malkin put away his 23rd goal after missing 7 games. Positioned by the far post to receive a gorgeous pass from Olli Maatta, Malkin directed the puck with his right skate and
Maata with a beautiful set up to Malkin. pic.twitter.com/IaQY5BaDDS— Wendel Clarkson (@MuchTruculence) February 15, 2017
Following the goal, Pittsburgh began to enforce their will on the visiting Vancouver team. For what felt like a quarter of the period, the Penguins kept the Canucks pinned in their own end of the ice and they scrambled to keep shots away from their net.
With Alex Edler in the box, the Penguins continued impose their will on the Canucks after the midway point of the period. Ryan Miller played like a mad man, making save after save in the following minutes.
With the dust was still settling from the penalty kill, Markus Granlund suddenly had a chance to even the score when he found himself on an odd man rush. He would have scored too if it hadn’t been for that meddling crossbar.
Minutes later, Jack Skille forced Matt Murray to make his biggest save of the game after a great set up by Loui Eriksson.
The Canucks had their chances to the end the period but feel short of besting Matt Murray. This really isn’t good news when you’re up against a a team that’s 22-0-0 when leading after 40 minutes.
Momentum was firmly in Pittsburgh’s grip as soon as the third period began. Within 3 minutes of the final frame, Sidney Crosby completed a give and go with Jake Guentzel in the slot to gift Guentzel his sixth goal in 18 career games alongside Crosby.
The assist gives Crosby 999 career points, one away from becoming the 86th player to bank 1,000. It also ended his monstrous pointless slump at 2 games. Can you imagine!?
The Canucks sole power play opportunity came shortly after this goal but failed to generate a shot on net.
Shortly after the failed man advantage, Jack Skille had himself another chance to get a puck in the net. If only there wasn’t some guy in the way.
Skilleeeeee...stopped again.— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) February 15, 2017
No sweat, third time's a charm. pic.twitter.com/5BXcZOlYkb
Evgeni Malkin solidified Pittsburgh’s lead when he smoothly worked his way towards down the right wing. As he patiently approached the Canucks defence, he out-waited both Chris Tanev and Luca Sbisa before setting up Phil Kessel for the easy tap in.
Are we sure Malkin was even injured?
Simply put, the Canucks were reeling in the third period. The tight defensive game that kept them competitive for the first half of the game had to be abandoned in a desperate bid to score. This opened things up for the skilled Pittsburgh team and they never looked back.
With 2 minutes remaining, Matt Cullen put
After stopping 29 shots for his third shutout of the season, Matt Murray and the Penguins added to their regulation win streak following the All-Star break (5-0-2).
Despite a stellar performance from Ryan Miller,
Desperate for wins, the Vancouver Canucks are back in action when the face-off against the St. Louis Blues on Thursday.