It wasn’t easy watching this team last year, and I would particularly dread games that started before noon. But this season is entirely different. I’ll get up at any hour to watch Elias Pettersson and Bo Horvat do their magic, especially if they’re facing players like Rasmus Dahlin and Jack Eichel. With unbelievable sights and indescribable feelings, it’s a whole new world.
(Wait… was that an Aladdin reference? You bet. Fun fact, there are six other references hidden in this IWTG, collect them all and win a free “I participated in the 2018 Sabres / Canucks Aladdin-themed catchprase contest” t-shirt. Maybe. I’ll ask Daniel if we have budget for that.)
It was a quiet game for Pettersson, by which I mean he only had one truly jaw-dropping moment, but with yet more goals from Loui Eriksson and Erik Gudbranson, my jaw dropped for other reasons while I watched this game.
- Nathan Beaulieu opened the scoring after pinching in from the blueline. Beaulieu made like a Higgs boson particle as Kyle Okposo's laser pass found him beside the net. Like the elusive God Particle, Okposo’s helper zipped undetected right through three Canuck sticks.
- Tyler Motte nearly tied it up off a behind-the-net pass from Antoine Roussel, who popped it out to several Canucks right in Carter Hutton’s kitchen. However, they just stood there in the kitchen and blinked, which makes sense because it’s 10am on a long weekend.
- With 5 minutes left in the first period, Johann Larsson tricked Erik Gudbranson, split the Canucks defence and sped his way to open ice before ringing a shot off the post. Jacob Markstrom thought it was in; he missed hearing the “ping” because he no longer has ears.
- Carter Hutton made an absolutely incredible save on Bo Horvat five minutes into the second. After a stunning cross-ice pass by Brendan Leipsic, Hutton went soaring, tumbling, freewheeling across the crease and gloved Horvat’s shot, denying Vancouver’s best chance of the period.
- In the late period a stickless Jacob Markstrom made a wild save of his own, snapping a Conor Sheary half-slapper out of mid-air. His stick was initially within reach but Mittelstadt (who is known for his stickwork) pushed the keeper’s twig out of reach, which the refs missed. Trouble? No way. You’re only in trouble if you get caught.
- Loui Eriksson cracked the egg near the end of the period after some hardhat work by Markus Granlund and Bo Horvat. Granlund fought off his check behind the net and delivered the puck to a waiting Eriksson, who popped it into the mesh. Eriksson now has 7 points in four games. After two seasons of struggling to score he finally has some phenomenal cosmic powers on his side.
- Hold your breath, it gets better. Moments later, Jake Virtanen treated the Canucks faithful to a gorgeous rush goal, after which fans treated their unwilling stomachs to a #shotgunjake beer at 11:45 AM. Good thing it’s a weekend. Virtanen jetted around Zach Bogosian, cutting in to the net and backhanding it far side around Hutton.
- In a season start few would have predicted, perhaps the strangest thing has been who is scoring. Following a gritty series of Vancouver chances, Erik Gudbranson’s point shot cleanly beat the Buffalo goaltender to put the Canucks up 3-1. That’s a five-game point streak for Erik.
- Markstrom made a number of impressive saves, perhaps none better than when he stoned Jeff Skinner in the early third. A Jack Eichel shot produced a huge rebound and Skinner pounced on it, but Markstrom made a sliding butterfly pad stop to preserve Vancouver’s lead. Moments later Markstrom stymied Evan Rodrigues on a clean shorthanded breakaway.
- Johann Larsson blindsided Elias Pettersson away from the puck, snapping the rookie’s head back and sending him to the ice. The referees called tripping, but they could’ve also called interference and roughing because it was basically just a predatory, garbage maneuver by Larsson.
- Vancouver held a two-goal lead with three minutes remaining, but Buffalo said, “let’s not be too hasty.” With an empty crease at the other end, Jack Eichel kept the puck in Vancouver’s zone, and Sam Reinhart found Skinner from behind the net, who closed the lead to one.
- Reinhart wasn’t done. With Carter Hutton back in place, Rasmus Ristolainen snapped a shot on Markstrom and the rebound bounced out to Reinhart for the tying goal and a jolt of caffeine to the afternoon crowd at KeyBank Center. Vancouver was less thrilled. Some unexpected collapses are funny, this one was not.
- Vancouver dominated the extra frame with about two minutes of power play time. Nikolay Goldobin hit a crossbar, Elias Pettersson whiffed on a one-timer. Later, Ben Hutton deked Carter Hutton, with Hutton coming out victorious over Hutton. Uh, the goalie one.
- Wondered if Elias Pettersson did something outrageous? Of course he did. Elias played the puck through his own legs while he deked between three Buffalo defenders before being tripped. The play is a must see. Ring bells, bang the drums, you’re gonna love this guy. Then on the ensuing power play, Pettersson shattered his stick on an otherwise perfect one-timer.
- The skills contest didn’t favour the Canucks. Jack Eichel snapped a shot past Markstrom to take the lead. Granlund score with a similar move to even the contest, but Casey Mittelstadt outwaited Markstrom and deked around him to score the eventual winner. That said, with the extra time point Vancouver will cling on to first place in the Pacific Division for at least another day.