Canucks earn redemptive performance with weight of deadline off their backs

Jacob Markstrom made 29 saves for the shutout as the Vancouver Canucks easily beat the Anaheim Ducks 4-0.

VANCOUVER — Nikolay Goldobin scored a goal Monday night. And he was thankful it was still for the Vancouver Canucks.

“I’m just glad I’m staying here,” the Russian winger said after the Canucks beat the Anaheim Ducks 4-0 the day the National Hockey League trade deadline passed. “Really happy. I like this organization and I know coaches believe in me a lot. And I like the guys here. I just feel I’m home here.”

Goldobin’s feelings were as important as his goal, coming a few hours after the Canucks traded teammate Erik Gudbranson and minor-league prospect Jonathan Dahlen, who wanted out from the organization.

A healthy scratch eight times since New Year’s Day, Goldobin has looked on his way out of the organization but hasn’t wavered in his desire to stay. His skill level and potential as an NHL scorer were too good for the Canucks to give up on the 23-year-old, and so there was Goldobin in the first period, sniping a shot post-and-in from Elias Pettersson’s cross-ice pass to open scoring against the Ducks.

“You always have barriers in your life,” Goldobin said. “But who’s strongest? Who’s going to continue to work hard and succeed in life?”

It was a redemptive performance for Goldobin and a cathartic night for the Canucks, who had been buckling under the weight of several big-game losses and injuries even before the uncertainty and angst of deadline day piled on.

They arrived for Monday night’s game to the finality of Gudbranson’s departure. The third-year Canuck, who became a defensive liability and admitted after his trade to Pittsburgh that he didn’t play as well he wanted during his 2 ½ seasons in Vancouver, skated with teammates in the morning. By game time, even his name had been scrubbed from the locker room.

The trade allowed 29-year-old defenceman Luke Schenn, taken back from the Ducks in last month’s trade of Michael Del Zotto and then recalled from the American Hockey League on Feb. 15, to play his first NHL game since Nov. 9.

Schenn impressively began what could be his last chance in the NHL by logging 15:07 of ice time, registering three shots and four hits and finishing with a shots-for percentage of 58.8, third-best among Canucks.

“It’s been a while,” he smiled. “At times it felt like I wasn’t sure it was going to happen. This was my first time getting sent to the minors in my career. It took a lot of encouragement from a lot of people around me to keep battling and hope for this opportunity. I’m very thankful to all the coaches in the minors and my teammates that helped me to kind of get back here. It definitely feels good to be able to contribute tonight.”

He had the luxury of playing with the lead.

With the weight of the trade deadline — and possibly the playoff race — off their backs, the Canucks looked relaxed and confident. Even their power play worked.

Canuck Bo Horvat, who scored twice, said the passing of the trade deadline brought clarity.

“Nobody is wondering or guessing (about our team) anymore,” Horvat said. “The team is set; this is the team we’re having for the rest of the year. Now we have to run with it and try to get as many wins as we can.

“It’s not easy. You battle with (Gudbranson). I think he was here three years and all of a sudden he’s gone within minutes, so it’s not easy to come to the rink and see someone gone like that. But we wish him all the best in Pittsburgh.”

Former Penguin winger Tanner Pearson will join the Canucks on their three-game road trip that starts Wednesday against the Colorado Avalanche. The Canucks are four points behind the Avalanche, which is tied for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot.

Alex Biega, another right-side defenceman who gets more opportunity with Gudbranson gone, scored the other Canuck goal on Monday.

Shut out 1-0 in Anaheim 12 nights earlier on Duck rookie Kevin Boyle’s 35-save shutout, the Canucks built a 3-0 advantage through 23 minutes and, against one of the few teams below them in the standings, were able to manage their lead and the clock the rest of the way.

The Canucks didn’t take penalties, didn’t turn over the puck (much), and yielded the Ducks only 15 shots after Horvat chipped in his own rebound from a Brock Boeser feed for a rare power-play goal that made it 3-0 at 2:22 of the second period.

Canuck goalie Jacob Markstrom finished with 29 saves for his first shutout this season. He was backed up by Thatcher Demko, the goaltending prospect who returned from the injured list after suffering a sprained knee during the pre-game warmup in Philadelphia on Feb. 4.

“You come to the rink every day excited to play,” Canuck defenceman Troy Stecher said of the day’s emotions. “You’ve got to love what you do. I don’t think there’s a motivation issue with our team. Once you’re up by three going into the third period, I don’t know if you loosen up but there’s definitely more humour on the bench. A couple of more smiles.”

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