What a wild evening for the Vancouver Canucks.
The team was looking to wrap up their three-game homestand on a positive note, facing off against Leon Draisaitl and the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night.
It was an important divisional contest for both sides, with the two clubs neck-and-neck in the standings.
Fortunately for the Canucks, they were able to welcome back forward J.T. Miller, who was activated from the team’s COVID-19 protocol list after missing the first two games of their current homestand.
Unfortunately, the wasn’t able to say the same about Conor Garland, Bo Horvat, Thatcher Demko and Jaroslav Halak, all of whom weren’t cleared to play on Tuesday. Tanner Pearson also found himself on the sidelines, becoming the 19th player to enter protocol since December 17th.
With a number of important players still out of the line-up, head coach Bruce Boudreau once again had to be creative with his line combinations ahead of the important divisional match.
The most important takeaway from the line rushes was in the net, with Spencer Martin continuing to write his amazing NHL story.
Despite being added to the COVID-19 protocol list on Sunday morning, Martin found himself back between the pipes on Tuesday night, filling in for Demko, who was unavailable for the third consecutive game.
And with both Demko and Halak unavailable, the Canucks were once again forced to rely on the services of Martin, who was hoping to build off of his impressive performance against Florida on Friday night.
And boy, did he not disappoint.
The 26-year-old stood tall in the opening frame, turning aside all 17 shots faced to keep the game scoreless.
It wasn’t all bad for the Canucks that period, who were gifted with a few offensive opportunities from the recently-reunited Lotto Line, while also successfully shutting down the league’s best powerplay on their first attempt.
But, like we’ve seen too often this season, the team still struggled to deliver a full 20-minute performance out of the gate, emerging relatively unscathed afterwards solely thanks to their netminder, who was forced to make nine saves in the final three minutes alone.
Let’s start with Pettersson.
The young Swede was able to bounce back from his mediocre first period play, flashing his speed and footwork down the left side before sniping the puck top-shelf past Mikko Koskinen to open the scoring.
Pettersson now has goals in three of his last five games, and has registered five points over that span.
Motte also had himself a productive second period.
The 26-year-old winger found himself playing with Miller and Brock Boeser to start the second period, almost capitalizing on his one and only shift with the duo. Motte eventually made his way back to his usual linemates in Juho Lammikko and Matthew Highmore, and the trio picked up right where they left off from the opening frame, using their defensive strengths to attempt to shut down Connor McDavid and co.
After Pettersson made it 1-0, the home team unfortunately took a penalty, this time with Juho Lammikko making the trip to the sin bin.
On the ensuing man advantage, fans and media were treated to a highlight-reel robbery from Miller, who blocked the puck from crossing the blueline. After the interception, Miller was able to spring Motte in on the partial breakaway to double up the score.
Similar to the opening frame, Martin wasn’t as busy for majority of the middle frame, but once again had to make key saves as the clock wound down in the second period to help his team maintain their two-goal lead.
Martin’s only real blunder occurred just past the six-minute mark of the third period, where he allowed a soft short-side tally from Ryan McLeod to cut the lead in half.
The misfortune continued for the team in the final frame, with Oliver Ekman-Larsson being called for cross-checking against McDavid, the second infraction drawn by the superstar. The Canucks were technically able to kill off that powerplay attempt, but just barely, thanks to a heroic goal-line save from Martin as the penalty was set to expire, but still fell victim to a classic Draisaitl slapshot to tie the game at 2-2 just as OEL stepped back onto the ice.
Fortunately for the Canucks, even with their mini third period collapse, Martin made sure that those two goals didn’t affect his overall performance, continuing to showcase his strong rebound control, positioning and stick-handling abilities for the rest of the third period and into overtime.
During the extra frame, Martin was peppered with nine more shots, bringing Edmonton’s total up to 50. Unfortunately, the 50th shot attempt proved to be the dagger, thanks to McDavid’s 20th goal of the year that secured the extra point for the Oilers.
Martin finished the evening with 47 saves, bringing his save count to 80 over his past two contests. The 26-year-old also currently sports an impressive .952 SV% and 1.86 GAA over that span.
And with Demko’s status still up in the air, there’s no doubt that the team will be hoping that Martin’s heroics can continue if they do end up needing him on the road.
With the overtime loss, the Canucks finished their homestand with a record of 0-1-2, collecting just two of a possible six available and bringing their overall record to 18-19-5, good for seventh in the Pacific Division.
More importantly, the Canucks were once again unable to hold onto a lead in the final frame due to defensive inconsistencies, a feat that will need drastic improvement if they want to keep the playoff conversation alive.
Edmonton finished the evening with 51 more shot attempts than Vancouver, while also sporting a ridiculous 4.93 expected goals against, ultimately showing how good Martin was for the Vancouver squad.
The team is set to kick off a four-game road trip on Thursday, squaring off against Kyle Connor and the Winnipeg Jets. Puck drop is set for 5:00pm PST.
What are your thoughts from Tuesday’s overtime loss against Edmonton? Let us know in the comments!