The Vancouver Canucks can secure a berth in next week’s Stanley Cup playoffs with a victory in Game 4 of their Western Conference qualifying series with the Minnesota Wild on Friday night in Edmonton.
After getting blanked 3-0 in the opener of the best-of-five series by Wild goaltender Alex Stalock, the seventh-seeded Canucks bounced back to win two in a row. Vancouver grabbed the series lead with a 3-0 victory on Thursday afternoon in Game 3.
Jacob Markstrom earned his first career playoff shutout with 27 saves, and the Canucks killed seven power plays thanks in part to 14 blocked shots. Vancouver, which got a goal and an assist from both Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson, finished with 22 saves in the contest.
“Unbelievable,” Markstrom said after becoming the fourth goalie in Canucks history to record a playoff shutout, joining Kirk McLean (six), Roberto Luongo (five) and Richard Brodeur (one). “The sacrifice, blocking shots and boxing out and clearing pucks … not just (by) the (penalty) killers on the ice.
“You hear it on the bench every time someone blocked a shot. Every time somebody blocked a shot, everyone is pounding their stick, hitting the boards. It gets everybody fired up.”
And it frustrated a Minnesota team that couldn’t solve Markstrom on those shots that did get through. For the series, he has stopped 87 of the 92 shots that he’s faced for a .946 save percentage.
Quinn Hughes led the Canucks with three assists, a franchise record for points in a playoff game by a rookie defenseman. The 20-year-old Calder Trophy finalist also tied the franchise record for points in a playoff game by any Vancouver defenseman.
“I don’t think you put a price on experience,” Hughes told NHL.com. “I think this is really big for all the young guys here. For us, we just try and lean on the guys that have been here a bit and try and take it one day at a time.”
Markstrom said, “We’ve got to keep going. They’ve got a really good team there on the other side. We’re not going to get anything for free. We’ve got to bring our best (Friday), too.”
The Wild, the No. 10 seed, are 0-for-13 on the power play over the last two games, including 0-for-7 Thursday.
“That’s the game,” said Minnesota forward Kevin Fiala, who finished with four shots on goal while seven of his shots were blocked. “Sometimes we’re going to score, sometimes not. Sometimes there’s just nothing wrong. But they’re blocking a lot of shots, too much. We’ve got to get those through and get us an opportunity to score goals.”
The Wild face a quick turnaround in what is now an elimination game for them.
“Desperate hockey,” Minnesota forward Marcus Foligno said. “I think we’re a good team when we play desperate, so we should bring out the best hockey that we’ve played all year tomorrow. There’s not one guy in (the locker room) that is thinking about going home.”
Minnesota defenseman Ryan Suter didn’t play the final 6:51 after blocking a shot, and Wild coach Dean Evason did not have an update afterward on Suter’s status for the Friday night’s contest.
–Field Level Media