Hold on – could the Vancouver Canucks actually make the playoffs this year?
After securing all four points from their road games in Vegas and Arizona, the team returned to Rogers Arena on Saturday night, squaring off against Logan Couture and the San Jose Sharks.
With their two victories during the week, Vancouver found themselves just six points back of the Dallas Stars for the second and final wild card spot in the Western Conference, keeping their postseason window still slightly open.
The Canucks also welcomed back Quinn Hughes to the line-up, who missed the past two contests with a non-COVID illness.
The game had some fireworks right away, thanks to a cheeky (and unexpected) dangle from Jason Dickinson to give his team the early 1-0 lead.
Prior to the goal, the Canucks also set the tone for physicality, with blueliner Kyle Burroughs absolutely plastering Ryan Merkley into the boards. It was definitely a questionable hit, especially after how dizzy Merkley appeared trying to get to the bench, but Burroughs wasn’t given a penalty, keeping the play alive for Dickinson’s fourth goal of the year.
The rough stuff continued shortly after, in large part to Will Lockwood. After throwing a big hit on Timo Meier, the 23-year-old forward, who was suiting up for his seventh straight game with the Canucks, dropped the gloves with Noah Gregor, who made sure that Lockwood answered the bell for his hit.
Meier continued to be involved in the physicality, getting into it with Vasily Podkolzin just a few shifts later, but only the Russian rookie was assessed a penalty, sending San Jose to their first powerplay of the game.
The Canucks found themselves even more shorthanded just moments after, thanks to a J.T. Miller slash that led to a big 5-on-3 penalty kill for the home team.
Tyler Myers was able to kill some time on the clock with an impressive run into the Sharks’ end, but they were able to bounce back with numbers, eventually tying the game at 1-1 thanks to Tomas Hertl’s 28th tally of the year.
The penalty box parade continued on for the remainder of the period, with the two teams combining for three more infractions to extend the action-packed start to the game, but the score stayed level heading into the first intermission.
Similar to the opening frame, Vancouver came out swinging in the second frame, carrying over their strong puck movement and offensive prowess from the first 20 minutes.
The team was eventually rewarded for their efforts, thanks to a slick wrist shot from Conor Garland to regain the lead. After recovering the puck in his own end, Garland, who hadn’t scored a goal in 19 games, sprung up the ice to create a 2-on-1, faking the pass to Miller before snapping the puck past Kaapo Kahkonen for his 15th tally of the season.
The sin bin once again filled up throughout the middle of the period, this time with San Jose taking back-to-back penalties of their own.
The Canucks were able to create a few scoring opportunities on the man advantages, with the best chance coming off of an Elias Pettersson bullet that rang off the outside of the post, but were unable to extend their lead in the end.
Unfortunately, their powerplay inefficiencies came back to bite them with just over a minute left in the second period, thanks to former Canuck Nick Bonino, who managed to tip one past Thatcher Demko to tie the game at 2-2.
To no one’s surprise, both teams also took one more penalty each in the final 60 seconds, setting the stage for a lengthy 4-on-4 to open the third period.
Neither team managed to capitalize with the open ice, but that didn’t matter for the Canucks.
Shortly after returning to even strength, the home team made its way back into the offensive zone, clearly desperate for the much-needed two points from this game.
The puck eventually made its way to Alex Chiasson, who wired home his 10th tally of the season and, more impressively, his fourth goal in the past five games, to give his team the 3-2 lead.
Bo Horvat also secured the primary assist on the go-ahead goal, extending his red-hot play. The captain has now scored 10 points in his last 10 games.
The chaos continued for the remainder of the period, with both teams receiving one more powerplay, including a cross check from Myers with just 40 seconds left on the clock.
San Jose was able to create a flurry of chances and sustained pressure on the man advantage, but couldn’t get anything past Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who single-handedly blocked every shot thrown towards the net before Luke Schenn sealed the deal with a buzzer-beating empty netter.
With the victory, Vancouver now sits just four points back of Dallas for the final playoff spot in the West. They are also just behind Los Angeles and Vegas in the standings, with the same amount of games remaining on the schedule for all three clubs.
The Canucks will look to extend their winning streak on Tuesday night, once again hosting the Golden Knights in an extremely crucial Pacific Division battle. Puck drop is set for 7:00pm PST.
What are your thoughts from Saturday’s massive 4-2 win against San Jose? Let us know in the comments!