There’s nothing like home for the Vancouver Canucks.
After playing nine consecutive road games between December 16th and January 18th, the team finally returned to Rogers Arena, taking on Jonathan Huberdeau and the Florida Panthers on Friday night. These two clubs were quite familiar with each other, having gone to battle just 10 days ago, but the Canucks were hoping that they’d be able to walk away with the all-important two points this time around.
Unfortunately, the Canucks were forced to ice a much different line-up compared to their recent road trip, with J.T. Miller, Bo Horvat, Conor Garland, Thatcher Demko and Jaroslav Halak serving their time on the league’s COVID-19 protocol list.
As a result, head coach Bruce Boudreau was forced to juggle his line combinations, in addition to bringing up reinforcements from Abbotsford.
Despite being outnumbered in star power, the Canucks were able to hold their ground against the NHL’s best team, showcasing relentless puck pursuit and intensity that led them all the way to the shootout.
The Canucks weren’t able to secure the second point in the end, but many didn’t believe that they could even land one against the Florida juggernaut.
With the loss in extra time, Vancouver was able to gain a bit of ground in the wide-open Pacific Division. They currently sit four points back of San Jose, who are holding onto the second and final wild card position in the Western Conference.
Without further ado, here are three takeaways from Friday’s 2-1 shootout loss to the Panthers:
Spencer Martin stands tall in goal
What a night for Spencer Martin.
With both Demko and Halak in COVID-19 protocol, Boudreau had no choice but to rely on the services of his AHL netminders, calling up Martin and Michael DiPietro to the big leagues on Friday.
Martin was eventually given the nod between the pipes, with the organization desperately hoping that he’d be able to build off of his impressive 5-0-2-1 record, 2.24 GAA and 0.921 SV% in Abbotsford to help keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
He did not disappoint.
Martin, who was celebrating the five-year anniversary of his NHL debut, wasn’t too busy in the first half of the opening frame, only facing six shots from the Panthers.
However, the pressure ramped up in the latter half for Martin, who was forced to make a few big saves in the final few minutes, including a point-blank robbery of Sasha Barkov while his team was shorthanded.
The Canucks continued their strong 5v5 play in the middle frame, once again shutting down Florida in the neutral zone and against the boards to limit their high-danger scoring chances, while also building off of their league-leading 1.49 GAA at even strength.
Like the first period, however, Florida did manage to create some intensity towards the end of the middle frame, but fortunately Martin was up to the task.
The 26-year-old showcased his sound positioning and calm demeanour to help his team maintain the 1-0 lead, which was highlighted by a flashy glove save on blueliner Radko Gudas.
Martin carried his steady goaltending into the final frame, stopping 15 of 16 shots faced en route to overtime. Martin eventually came up short in the shootout, surrendering tallies to Barkov and Essa Lundell, but was still instrumental in helping his team secure the much-needed extra point.
Martin finished the evening with Demko-like numbers, posting 33 saves and a .971 SV%.