VANCOUVER – It says something about how far and how quickly the Canucks have travelled in four weeks that on Tuesday they rallied from a goal down late in the third period to take a point off the Stanley Cup champions and no one in the Vancouver dressing room was particularly happy about that.
After four straight years of not being close to the playoffs, Canucks success is still a novelty that perplexes as many people as it pleases. But winning is what the players already expect of themselves, which is why there was a dark tone in their room after the St. Louis Blues beat them 2-1 in overtime at Rogers Arena.
Canucks defenceman Tyler Myers had two chances to decide the game at three-on-three, and his second chance did. Myers missed the net with his shot but scored a bullseye on teammate J.T. Miller when he fell, allowing the Blues a leisurely three-on-zero counter-attack that they were able to execute at walking speed and finish with Jaden Schwartz flipping the puck past forsaken Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom at 3:28.
Markstrom, who has worked the last couple of years of managing and channelling his emotions, finally reached his breaking point just before his stick reached its breaking point, smashed into pieces by the goalie after Schwartz converted Alex Pietrangelo’s goalmouth pass.
But the Canucks still added a point to their surprising total in the standings because rookie Quinn Hughes, back in the lineup after missing one game with a sore knee, slapped a fluttering puck past Blues goalie Jordan Binnington with just 3:35 remaining in regulation time.
The 9-3-3 Canucks have taken points in eight straight games, which is one game less than their streak of out-shooting opponents.
Their goal-differential, plus-16, is one of the best in the National Hockey League.
The Canucks have faced the Blues twice in two-and-a-half, twice rallying from a deficit to play the Stanley Cup winners even. Vancouver won 4-3 in a shootout in St. Louis on Oct. 17. The Canucks were shut out 1-0 in New Jersey two days later and haven’t lost in regulation since.
"To push the defending champs like that, it just shows we’re doing really good," Hughes said. "We’ve got a good team. We’ve got a really good team. That was our 15th game of the year; we’ve got to prove ourselves the entire year. We haven’t done anything yet. But we’re on a good path here."
"It couldn’t be more like a playoff game, that game," Miller, submarined by Myers ahead of the winning goal, told reporters. "Close, tight, crowd was awesome, there were some hits, some really good chances. That was a super fun game to be part of.
"We played a helluva game. The power play has got to take a little ownership right now. We need to be better and at least get us a little momentum when we get a power play. Tonight was a game where the power play could have made a difference, and it didn’t."
Vancouver’s power-play, which was 8-for-21 in the five games with Hughes on the point before he was hurt Friday in Anaheim, was 0-for-4 against the Blues and generated just six shots in eight minutes of advantages.
"They kind of played a flood PK," Hughes said of the Blues’ aggressive kill. "They were darting to the corners, darting to guys, not really being passive at all. That just makes us have to make decisions quicker.
"But I’m not too worried about the power play. We’re going to have really good days, and we’re going to have days like today. That’s just the reality. Our power play is just going to keep getting better. I’m still learning to read off guys."
Playing their lone home game between road trips, the Canucks outshot the Blues 25-16 in the first two periods but trailed 1-0 on Tyler Bozak’s goal at 3:37 of the second.
Sammy Blais pressured Canucks defenceman Jordie Benn into a turnover, and when Vancouver centre Jay Beagle let Bozak skate away from him towards the slot, the veteran Blue was open to receive Blais’ pass and snap a shot top corner.
It took the Canucks until 16:25 of the third period to tie it. Hughes’ shot dipped into the top corner behind Binnington as the Canucks’ Elias Pettersson, who had his stick knocked away by Pietrangelo, flashed to the front of the net.
Pettersson had six shots on net but went pointless and was a frequent target for the Blues. On the tying goal, he turned and screamed towards Pietrangelo before congratulating Hughes.
But the Canucks’ joy was short-lived.
In overtime, Myers partially fanned on a one-timer that Binnington swallowed. Next time down the ice, Myers missed the net from left wing, then wiped out Miller.
"Mysie just misses and we all run into each other," Miller summarized. "Yeah, I could believe there was a three-on-oh."
"I would have liked to hit the net on that one, so it didn’t rim around," Myers said. "But an unfortunate break running into each other. I thought we did a lot of good things. I thought it was great we got the point out of it, tied it up late. We’ll bring that good into Chicago."
The Canucks visit the Blackhawks on Thursday, then the Winnipeg Jets on Friday in Vancouver’s third back-to-back this season.