In December, I wrote about seven different franchise rookie records that Elias Pettersson could conceivably break by the end of this season. I didn’t expect that less than a month later, he would have already broken one of them.
With his overtime goal against the Ottawa Senators, Pettersson set a new franchise record for most game-winning goals by a rookie with seven. The record was previously held by Pavel Bure.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise: even in the Swedish Hockey League, Pettersson had a tendency to score big goals. Just three of his 24 goals came when his team had more than a one-goal lead and not a single one of his goals was into an empty net. In 44 regular season games for the Vaxjo Lakers, he scored six game-winning goals. It’s just what he does.
It got even more absurd in the SHL playoffs, when he erupted for 10 goals in just 13 games. Four of those 10 goals were game winners.
So, of course Pettersson broke Bure’s game-winning goals record in just 36 games. Pettersson doesn’t just score goals; he scores important goals. And now he has a chance to break another Canucks rookie record that wasn’t even mentioned in my article in December.
See, Pettersson overtime game winner was also his third goal of the night, giving him his first career hat trick. There doesn’t appear to be any official record on the books for most hat tricks by a Canucks rookie, but as far as I can tell it’s held by Trevor Linden, who tallied two hat tricks in the 1988-89 season.
Linden’s two hat tricks came just a few games apart, on November 17th, 1988 against the Minnesota North Stars and November 22nd, 1988 against the Buffalo Sabres. Pettersson is already halfway to that record and has another 39 games to match it and surpass it.
I saw the first records fall when I watched this game.
- My headcanon for the Anders Nilsson trade is that Jim Benning has been trying to trade Nilsson all road trip, offering him up to whichever team the Canucks happened to be playing each night. Edmonton said no — they’d already had him once before — Calgary was happy with David Rittich, and New Jersey were hesitant to trade for another Canucks goaltender after Cory Schneider imploded. Finally he found a taker after they landed in Ottawa. It’s not what actually happened, but it mildly amused me to think about it for a moment, so now I’m making you think about it too.
- I actually quite liked the trade from the Canucks’ perspective, as they accomplished a lot with such a minor trade. They freed up a spot to call up Thatcher Demko, moved Nilsson’s $2.5 million contract, and got some help for the Utica Comets in Mike McKenna and Tom Pyatt in one fell swoop. It did lead to the odd experience of immediately seeing Nilsson in a Senators jersey, albeit on the bench instead of the opposing net.
- Nikolay Goldobin was a healthy scratch for this game. I’ll just say this: if this is all in an effort to get the best out of Goldobin, similar to the approach Travis Green took with Sven Baertschi and Ben Hutton, then I can live with it, even if it feels heavy-handed. If this is all a precursor to unloading Goldobin in a trade, then I’m probably going to be pretty upset.
- In any case, Goldobin likely won’t have to wait long to get back in the lineup, as Josh Leivo, who started the game with Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser, left the game in the first period with an upper body injury and didn’t return. While it’s unclear how he suffered the injury, the camera caught him heading down the tunnel during a stoppage to fix some broken glass: he slammed his stick down and seemed very upset. If he’s out for any length of time, it would be assumed that Goldobin would draw back in.
- The Senators apparently showed this video before the start of the game. Weirdly, it goes into great detail of how terrible the team was last season and all the great players the team has traded away, which is a bold move for a video shown in the arena, the type of thing that’s supposed to pump up the crowd. It also starts with the phrase, “Let’s just start with the good news: this year’s Sens are better than pundits predicted.” Really? They’re 31st in the NHL in points percentage right now. They’re dead last. Just how low was the bar that this is better?
- Despite the one-goal score, this was a dominant performance by the Canucks for most of the game. They out-shot the Senators 45 to 33 and hit four posts. At times, it seemed like the Canucks could create breakaways at will. Only a fantastic performance by rookie netminder Marcus Hogberg in his third career start kept it close. If Nilsson’s not careful, Hogberg might be hogging all the starts in Ottawa.
- The Canucks out-shot the Senators 17-5 in the first period, yet somehow didn’t score any goals. It had the feeling of becoming “one of those games,” where the Canucks can’t take advantage of their chances, but then they just kept getting chances for the entire game.
- Alex Edler had a fantastic game, eating up 23:55 in ice time and tallying three assists. It almost went horribly awry in the first period, however, on two plays where he fell to the ice. On the first, a slick move by Chris Tierney, sent Edler off-balance, but he was able to recover and get the toe of his stick out to poke the puck away while on his belly. It was the best belly save since pitcher Bartolo Colon took a line drive to the gut and still got the out, saying to reporters after, “It’s okay, I have a lot of belly.”
- The second time Edler went for a tumble, it was the fault of the referee at centre ice. Skating back to defend a shorthanded rush, Edler tripped over the referees skate, then recovered in time to hack Zack Smith from behind, which the referee let him get away with, probably because it was his fault the breakaway happened in the first place.
- Sven Baertschi got the lone non-Pettersson goal for the Canucks, his first since returning from injury. He opened the scoring on the power play with an Andrew-Wiggins-ian putback jam on an Alex Edler rebound. Then he got pushed into the net by Ben Harpur and nearly hit his head on the post and I had a moment of panic for his poor, recently-concussed cranium. Fortunately, he came up smiling.
- Matt Duchene tied the game a few minutes later, however, finishing off a rebound from Bobby Ryan. They followed that up with a 3-on-1, but Erik Gudbranson made a great play, sliding to the ice like Kevin Bieksa, except it actually worked, blocking the cross-ice pass to prevent a fantastic scoring chance.
- The Canucks took the lead when both Edler and Chris Tanev jumped up in the rush. While Tanev drove the centre lane to the net, Pettersson dropped the puck to Edler and got open. Edler fed Boeser on the right wing, then tied up the stick of Brady Tkachuk to keep the passing lane to Pettersson open. Hogberg had to respect Boeser’s shot, which made it hard for him to come back across to stop Pettersson, who shot it off Hogberg’s blocker and in.
- Somehow Boeser didn’t score in this game, despite a game-high 11 shot attempts, seven of them on goal. He was stopped on a couple breakaways, hit the post, and even had a backhand heading into an open net knocked down by defenceman Dylan Demelo. At least he still got two assists and drew a penalty.
- Pettersson made it 3-1 on the power play from his favourite spot on the ice: The PetterZone. After an ugly neutral zone giveaway gave Magnus Paajarvi a shorthanded breakaway that Markstrom turned aside, the Canucks got set up and took advantage of Paajarvi leaving Pettersson’s shooting lane wide open. Edler set up Pettersson for the one-timer from the top of the right faceoff circle and Pettersson drilled it like he didn’t care about its environmental impact, into the top corner inside the far post. Hogberg had no chance.
- Thanks to double-shifting on both power play units in place of the injured Leivo, Elias Pettersson played over 22 minutes in this game. He currently leads all rookie forwards in average ice time by over two minutes per game. At this point we should start calling him EP for Extended Play.
- The Senators got within one after a pair of penalties put the two teams 4-on-4. Derrick Pouliot lost the puck to a Mikkel Boedker forecheck and Boedker’s centring pass found its way to defenceman Christian Wolanin, who sent it off the far post and in with Pouliot accidentally screening Markstrom. Not Pouliot’s finest hour. Or six seconds, for that matter.
- Like Finland against Canada earlier in the day, Ottawa found a last-minute goal to send the game to overtime. It was a trio of behind-the-back passes that skirted around the Canucks’ defensive perimeter to set up the Senators’ leading scorer, Mark Stone, at the backdoor, who found himself wide open when Jay Beagle had to rotate to marking Bobby Ryan in front and Bo Horvat didn’t read the danger quickly enough to rotate to the backdoor.
- After Pettersson rang the crossbar with rocket of a shot in overtime, you had to know he wouldn’t miss on his second opportunity. Tanev made a great stretch pass to Pettersson, who one-touched it to Boeser to set up a 2-on-1. Boeser zipped the pass under Cody Ceci’s stick and Pettersson made no mistake, burying the puck like it was a silver apple and he was Digory Kirke.
- That gave Pettersson his first career hat trick, carrying him to 22 goals on the season (twice as many as the next best rookie), and putting him on-pace for 45 goals, despite missing six games to injury. I think, and this might sound crazy, that Pettersson is good at hockey.
- Of course, the most important part of all of this is that the Crap Mantle stays where it belongs: in Ottawa.