The Montreal Canadiens and the host Vancouver Canucks return to the ice Thursday for the middle game of a three-game series that wraps up Saturday.
The Canucks head into the matchup starting to feel better about their power play. Vancouver’s extra-man unit went into the Wednesday home game against the Canadiens 0-for-15 but managed three goals on six tries, a big part of the Canucks’ 6-5 shootout victory.
“We know that we can be difference-makers each and every night,” said Vancouver winger Brock Boeser, who had two goals, one on the power play, and added an assist. “We felt we needed to be better, even though we were getting good looks. When we got one, it just felt like the floodgates were going to open and then we got a few more. It was huge to get that going.”
The Canucks also got a two-goal, one-assist performance from Bo Horvat and a single goal from Tyler Motte. J.T. Miller added three assists and Quinn Hughes had two.
Tyler Toffoli recorded a hat trick for the Canadiens, scoring his first goals of the season. Jesperi Kotkaniemi notched a goal and an assist, and Brendan Gallagher also scored.
The difference in the Canucks’ discipline was undeniable. Vancouver allowed Montreal only one power play, though it did produce one of Toffoli’s goals.
“We knew we had to do better in that area,” said Horvat, noting the Canucks’ losses at Calgary on Saturday and Monday. “I thought we did a better job of moving our feet. We were using our legs to check, and we got rewarded for it.”
And when the Canadiens got frustrated, they got hit with the penalties, so the Canucks kept hammering away at them.
“We had them spread out,” Miller said. “I thought we worked really hard at getting pucks back. When you’re on the penalty kill and the other team is getting the puck back, your legs start to not work anymore. It gets really hard to defend at that point.”
Canadiens coach Claude Julien bristled at the mention that his team’s lack of discipline was the difference on the night.
“We didn’t lose the game because of dumb penalties, we lost it in the shootout,” Julien said. “But at the same time, I’ve said many times already, we need to be a little bit more disciplined in those situations.”
Center Phillip Danault did acknowledge the Canadiens have to play a cleaner game.
“We have to be more careful,” he said. “It was the same game plan against Edmonton. We knew they had a really good power play. It went better against them. Tonight we got caught up.”
For Canucks coach Travis Green, the win was a building block.
“It’s that time of year,” the 50-year-old said. “You’re still trying to get the foundation for your game, the details for your structure. You’re not going to win a lot of hockey games if you keep taking a lot of penalties, and our guys did a good job of that tonight.”
There isn’t much time for time for the teams to rest.
“No excuses,” Horvat said. “We gotta be ready to go. Both teams are in the same situation. Both teams had an OT game. It will be who’s gonna come better prepared and ready to go. We have to do that.”
–Field Level Media