Talk about a massive win for the Vancouver Canucks.
The team made their way to Scotiabank Arena on Saturday night, facing off against Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs to round out their four-game east coast adventure.
The road trip had been decently successful so far, with the Canucks managing to secure four out of a possible six points prior to Saturday night, including a strong bounce back performance against the Islanders just 48 hours prior.
However, despite the 2-1 record heading into Saturday night, Vancouver knew that this contest would be the most challenging and, more importantly, the most impactful when it came to their current playoff aspirations.
Fortunately, the team did not disappoint.
As expected, Vancouver iced the same lines as Thursday night, with head coach Bruce Boudreau hoping that these combinations would help break Vancouver’s 11-year losing drought in Toronto.
Both teams came out flying in the first period, hoping to set the tone early on.
It seemed that the Leafs were able to apply a bit more pressure in Vancouver’s end in the first few minutes but, as we’ve seen so many times before this season, J.T. Miller had other ideas.
After his line brought the puck into the offensive zone, the 28-year old forward parked himself in front of the net, eventually burying the big rebound to open the scoring. With the goal, Miller extended his point streak to nine games, once again skyrocketing his overall value as a player.
Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for the Maple Leafs to bounce back.
After Matthew Highmore was sent to the penalty box, Toronto’s powerplay came out flying, with captain John Tavares notching his 18th goal of the season to snap a personal 14-game goalless skid.
The hooking call on Highmore was definitely weak, but the Canucks were also quite sloppy in the neutral zone prior to Tavares’ tally, showcasing how the team still needs to make major improvements while shorthanded.
The two Canadian clubs exchanged scoring chances for the remainder of the opening frame, forcing both Thatcher Demko and Jack Campbell to be dialled in.
Vancouver managed to carry most of the momentum in the final few minutes, with their top two lines applying consistent and dangerous pressure against Toronto’s defence.
The Canucks were eventually rewarded for their efforts, with blueliner Travis Hamonic potting his second goal of the year and second point of the night to give his team the lead heading into the first intermission.
As expected, Toronto came out swinging in the middle frame, pinning Vancouver in their own end for what felt like an eternity. The fourth line was eventually able to clear the zone, and even managed to draw a penalty on the play to shut down Toronto’s growing momentum.
Boudreau immediately went with his primary powerplay unit, who have been red-hot as of late. After quickly setting up in Toronto’s end, the puck eventually found its way back to Miller, who sent a crisp pass to Brock Boeser at the front of the net to double Vancouver’s lead.
The goal itself was quite impressive, with Boeser knocking his own rebound out of the air, but it also stood as Miller’s second point of the night, marking his sixth multi-point outing over the past nine games.
Just like the start of the second period, however, Toronto managed to climb their way back into the game, thanks to Nic Robertson’s first-career regular season goal for the Leafs.
It could’ve easily been 3-3 just shortly after, but Demko had other plans, absolutely robbing Wayne Simmonds with the right pad to keep his team’s lead intact.
Unfortunately, the momentum was short-lived.
Just a few plays later, Boeser dished out a horrendous giveaway to Matthews, who buried his 38th goal of the year past Demko. The good fortune continued for Matthews, who once again beat the Demko (albiet while the Vancouver netminder did not have a stick) to not only secure his team’s first lead of the game, but to also reclaim his lead in the Rocket Richard race.
With the game still very much up for grabs, Vancouver came out firing on all cylinders to start the third period.
Boudreau once again deployed the Miller line, who managed to gain entry into Toronto’s end in the opening minute. The puck made its way back to Tyler Myers who, similar to Hamonic, just threw his shot towards the struggling Campbell.
The puck was eventually tipped home by Pearson for his 12th goal of the year and second point of the night. Boeser also managed to register the secondary assist, which definitely made up for his giveaway.
Just six minutes later, the Canucks were able to get some good fortune of their own, with Mitch Marner kicking a Bo Horvat shot directly to Alex Chiasson, who snapped his sixth goal of the season past Campbell to restore Vancouver’s lead.
Chiasson, who was awarded the championship belt following the game, finished the night with one goal and five SOG in just over 14 minutes of ice time.
However, with over 10 minutes left in the final frame, Toronto still had plenty of time to even up the score, and they made sure attack strong.
The 26-year-old was phenomenal in the final two minutes, turning aside high-danger scoring chances from Tavares, Matthews and Marner. The rest of the team also dug in deep, as evident from Pearson’s diving poke check on Matthews in the slot.
The Canucks managed to clear their zone after the flurry of chances from Toronto, and eventually sealed the deal with an empty-netter from Tyler Motte.
It was a gutsy performance from the visitors, with Demko, Miller and Pearson leading the way. Despite allowing four goals in the first two periods, Demko was spectacular in the final frame en route to a 38-save victory, while Miller and Pearson’s combined four points were instrumental in securing a much-needed two points for their club.
With the win, Vancouver was able to leap frog Anaheim for the fifth spot in the Pacific Division, while also bringing their playoff odds up to 15%, according to Dom Luszczyszyn of The Athletic.
The Canucks will have a few days off before embarking on a seven-game homestand at Rogers Arena, starting with the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night. Puck drop is set for 7:30pm PST.
What were your thoughts from Saturday’s 6-4 win in Toronto? Let us know in the comments!