PITTSBURGH — The arrival of 19-year-old Elias Pettersson has provided Vancouver with a much needed jolt. Yet the Canucks believe they’re far more than their fresh-faced rookie.
Going toe-to-toe with Pittsburgh near the end of a draining road trip offered proof they might be right.
Pettersson sat out with a concussion after taking a hit in Florida on Saturday night. The Canucks won their third consecutive game anyway, riding a defence that kept the Penguins and star Sidney Crosby in check.
“It’s obviously tough when you go on the road, especially early in the year,” Boeser said. “To get the points that we have, it’s nice.”
Boeser took the puck and drifted through centre ice as the Canucks worked through a line change behind him. Rather than drop it off to a teammate, he let one go just inside the right circle for his second goal of the season.
“I made a good read on the shot,” DeSmith said. “It just found a hole under my arm. Obviously one I want to have back. The guys played great tonight and they deserved better than that.”
“We had a real good team effort tonight,” Vancouver coach Travis Green said. “What a road game that was against a hockey team that’s obviously pretty deep. We’re learning how to win some hockey games and how we have to play to be successful.”
Hagelin’s goal was his first of the season for Pittsburgh. Jake Guentzel continued his torrid start by picking up his fourth.
DeSmith finished with 23 saves while making his third straight start in place of Matt Murray. Murray, Pittsburgh’s top goaltender, sustained a concussion last week and though he has been cleared to return spent a second consecutive game as DeSmith’s backup.
“It was a tough game for a goalie,” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said. “When you don’t score a lot of goals there’s not a lot of margin for error.”
Guentzel scored on Pittsburgh’s first shot, taking the puck away from Vancouver’s Tim Schaller and starting a two-on-one with Sidney Crosby the other way. Rather than pass it to his teammate, Guentzel instead fired a wrister from the right circle that found its way between Nilsson’s right arm and his body to give the Penguins the lead 6:34 into the game.
Hutton responded just over two minutes later, taking advantage of a scramble in front of the Pittsburgh net to swoop in from the blue line and fire a shot by the sprawled DeSmith to pick up his first goal since March 16, 2017.
Sutter, who played for the Penguins from 2013-15 before signing with the Canucks, pushed Vancouver ahead with just 1:04 left in the first period, though Schaller did most of the hard work. Schaller worked behind the Pittsburgh net and then slipped the puck across the goal mouth. Sutter pounced and fired from a sharp angle just above the goal line.
The goal appeared like it would be enough until late. Nilsson tamped down what little pressure the Penguins produced. It took an exquisite play from Kessel for Pittsburgh to draw even. Kessel, one of the best snipers in the NHL, raced down the right side but instead of shooting the puck instead opted to slip it across the ice to Hagelin, who redirected it into the net to help the Penguins salvage a point.
“I think for the most part I think as far as scoring chances go we’ve had enough to win games,” said Crosby, who is still searching for his first goal of the season. “Tonight is another example. We generated good ones. You’re going to play games that are tight and you’ve got to take advantage of the ones you get.”
NOTES: The Canucks did not go on the power play. The Penguins were 0 for 1 with the man advantage. … Vancouver has won its last three meetings with Pittsburgh. … The rematch is next week in Vancouver.
Canucks: Finish up their massive six-game road swing on Thursday in Winnipeg.
Penguins: Begin a four-game road trip on Thursday in Toronto.