Playoff push all but over after Canucks lose 6-3 to Flames

Apr 23, 2022; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames right wing Brett Ritchie (24) checks into the boards Vancouver Canucks left wing Juho Lammikko (91) during the second period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 23, 2022; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames right wing Brett Ritchie (24) checks into the boards Vancouver Canucks left wing Juho Lammikko (91) during the second period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports /

It’s not mathematically official yet, but the Vancouver Canucks basically extinguished their postseason hopes on Saturday night.

After falling to the Minnesota Wild by a score of 6-3 on Thursday night, the team made their way back to Canada to face off against Johnny Gaudreau and the Calgary Flames at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

Heading into Saturday’s contest, Vancouver was technically still in the playoff hunt, but not by much. The Canucks sat four points back of the Dallas Stars for the second and final wild card spot in the Western Conference. More importantly, the Canucks were only five points back of the Los Angeles Kings for third place in the Pacific Division, making their contest against Calgary yet another do-or-die situation for the club.

With the Flames having already clinched the division, head coach Darryl Sutter opted to not dress Jacob Markstrom at all, paving the way for Dan Vladar to make a rare home appearance between the pipes.

Meanwhile, as expected, the Canucks rolled with Thatcher Demko, hoping that the 26-year-old would once again hold down the fort in net. The Canucks also welcomed a few familiar faces back to the line-up in J.T. Miller and Tyler Myers.

Miller’s status was questionable heading into Saturday night after the forward painfully blocked a shot on Thursday night, while Myers did not participate in the morning skate.

The Canucks did manage to register the first shot of the game early in the first period but, like we’ve seen far too often, let their opponent take over shortly after.

It was all Calgary for the next few shifts, applying strong pressure in the offensive zone while rolling out their top three lines. Things got a little messy towards the middle part of the period, with both teams creating turnovers and having difficulty getting out of the neutral zone, but Calgary was eventually able to make their way out on top.

Despite not registering a single shot on net in the first 10 minutes, the Flames came out swinging in the last 10, creating a handful of scoring opportunities, including two glorious chances from Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm, but neither player could beat Demko, who turned aside all eight shots faced in the opening frame.

Similar to the first period, the Canucks also started the second period on the wrong foot, thanks to a high-sticking penalty from William Lockwood that sent the league’s ninth-best powerplay to work.

The Flames took advantage right away, with Gaudreau notching yet another primary assist en route to Lindholm’s 40th goal of the season to open the scoring for the home team.

Unfortunately, things went from bad to worse for Vancouver on the next shift.

After Demko mishandled the puck behind the net, it eventually makes its way to Dillon Dube, who potted Calgary’s second goal of the game just 16 seconds after the first tally.

Demko was able to make up for the mistake shortly after, robbing former Canuck Tyler Toffoli of his team’s third goal, but that didn’t stop Vancouver from continuing to struggle afterwards.

Calgary proved that they were the better team for much of the remainder of the period, outshooting Vancouver 16-12 while also hemming the Canucks in their own end on multiple occasions.

However, despite getting badly outplayed by their opponent, Vancouver was able to create some offence in the final few minutes.

After Alex Chiasson forced a turnover against Rasmus Andersson behind the Flames’ net, the puck moved from Miller to Vasily Podkolzin to Quinn Hughes, who eventually buried the puck top shelf to cut the lead in half.

The fireworks carried into the final moments of the period, thanks to an exchange of words and fists between Tkachuk Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who were both slapped with minor penalties to kick off the third period.

Neither team was able to capitalize on the 4v4 to open the final frame, but Vancouver made sure to keep the momentum moving in their favour afterwards.

With both teams back to even strength, the Canucks managed to regain entry into Calgary’s zone. The puck made its way to Myers, who moved down the right flank before sending a cross-ice pass to Conor Garland for the nifty behind-the-net deflection to tie the game at 2-2.

However, like all solid teams are expected to do, the Flames wasted no time in re-establishing their lead, getting a lucky bounce off of Brett Ritchie only 16 seconds after Garland’s goal.

Calgary also used the clock to their advantage later on in the period, with Dube and Nikita Zadorov contributing the fourth and fifth goals of the game just 12 seconds apart.

Despite the lop-sided scoreboard, Vancouver made sure not to go down without some sort of fight, thanks to Elias Pettersson absolutely wiring his 31st goal of the year past Vladar with just under three minutes.

Miller was credited with his third assist of the night on the goal, while Hughes was able to break the franchise record for assists from a defenceman (55), which was previously set by Dennis Kearns back in 1977. The primary assist also tied him with Doug Lidster for most points in a season (63) by a Canucks defenceman.

Unfortunately, the celebration was essentially washed away once Gaudreau buried the empty-netter, bringing the final score to 6-3 for the second straight contest.

With the defeat, Vancouver has now lost three straight games. The out-of-town scoreboard wasn’t too kind, either, with both Dallas and Los Angeles winning in regulation.

As a result, the team could be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs as early as Sunday. Vegas will be facing off against San Jose, who were just in Chicago the night before.

Meanwhile, the Canucks are back in action on Tuesday night, facing off against the Seattle Kraken for the second-last home game of the season. Puck drop is set for 7:00pm PST.

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What are your thoughts from Saturday’s 6-3 loss at the Saddledome? Let us know in the comments!