The Vancouver Canucks ensured that they didn’t leave California empty-handed, and escaped with a thrilling 3-2 comeback win over the Los Angeles Kings. We break down three key takeaways from the big win.
It wasn’t pretty at the start, as the Vancouver Canucks found themselves down 2-0 just 3:14 into the first period against the Los Angeles Kings. But Anders Nilsson stayed sharp, the defence settled down and the forwards played with more energy.
And it all added up to a crucial 3-2 victory, and trail the Kings by just four points for first in the Pacific Division. The Canucks get this physically-demanding and brutal road trip done with early, and now return home for two games.
There have been a handful of quality wins that suggest this team has formed a new identity, but this one may stand out the most. Coming back from 2-0 down against an elite team? On the road? Without your best defenceman in Chris Tanev? That’s how you do it.
Here are three things we learned from Vancouver’s thrilling comeback victory over the Kings.
Nilsson makes statement in return
Nilsson missed a few games following the birth of his son, but didn’t look the least bit rusty in his return. He got off to a rough start (as did the whole team), by allowing a pair of quick goals. But that was it for the Kings.
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Despite being peppered with shots in the third period, Nilsson stood his ground and made some brilliant saves to hold the lead.
This included a save in the final minutes off of sniper Adrian Kempe, who was left all alone in front of the net.
He finished with 30 saves, and was the key reason Vancouver was able to escape Los Angeles with two points. Nilsson now moves to 4-1-0 on the season with a 1.91 goals against average and .942 save percentage.
Once again, it looks like Jacob Markstrom is going to have to fight hard to keep his starting job. This is a good problem for the Canucks to have — yet another goalie controversy.
Sedins and Eriksson rekindle magic
Jake Virtanen was given the night off, prompting head coach Travis Green to put the Sedin twins on a line with Loui Eriksson. Boy, did they ever look the No. 1 line that many expected to see (but didn’t), last year.
Eriksson set up Henrik Sedin for the Canucks first goal, which was a turning point in the game. This line combined for seven shots, and they did an excellent job in shutting down the Kings forwards in the third period.
The twins held onto the puck and set up a plethora of scoring chances, while Eriksson was wreaking havoc on the forecheck. They were without a doubt Vancouver’s top line on the night, and should get more playing time together.
Was it just one great game from the three? Or are they finally developing the chemistry we saw at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey? We’ll find out soon.
What power play problems?
The Canucks power play had gone 0-for-5 in games against both the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks. They faced the top penalty-killing unit in the NHL, so it’s safe to guess that the Kings weren’t intimidated by Vancouver’s power play at first.
But Vancouver made Los Angeles pay for their mistakes. On three opportunities with the man advantage, the Canucks scored twice. That included Sven Baertschi‘s game winner early in the third period:
Obviously, the Canucks power play still has a lot of work and structuring to do. Just moments before Baertschi’s goal, Tanner Pearson was denied on a breakaway attempt by Nilsson. Vancouver still has to work on puck movement and proper setting-up with the man advantage.
But in this game, all mistakes were forgiven. The two power plays goals turned out to be the difference maker, against the NHL’s top penalty-killing unit. That was probably the best thing to feel good about in this game.