The newly named National Hockey League all-star stopped 36 of 37 shots Saturday as the Canucks beat the New York Rangers 2-1 to match their longest winning streak – seven games – in nine years.
But Markstrom has been so good, so consistently, really, the only thing unusual about him stealing them another win Saturday is that he did it with just two goals of run support. And the second didn’t come until 18:31 of the third period when Tyler Myers’ screened muffin from the point eluded Rangers goalie Alexandar Georgiev.
It was just the third time in 18 games this season the Canucks have won while scoring two or fewer goals. But 16 other times, out of 42 games, Vancouver’s mercurial attack has pumped in five or more goals.
Rarely, do the Canucks find a comfortable, solid middle ground. It’s the same within games.
On Saturday, for example, they were good the first few minutes then badly outplayed by the Rangers for the rest of the opening period. Aided by three power plays, the Canucks forced the game to the New York end in the second, outshooting the visitors 14-8. But the tilt of the ice reversed again in the third, when the Rangers had a 14-6 shooting advantage and Markstrom needed to make several big saves to keep his team tied before Myers’ late winner.
All or nothing.
“I think that’s fair,” Myers said. “You can tell we’re a team that’s still building, still learning. But you can tell it’s also getting a lot better as the year has gone on.
“It seems like it’s the main talking point coming to the rink on game day: keeping it simple, playing direct. And I think when we get away from that and we try to get too cute is when we have our bad stretches. But what I like from our group, as of late, is when we’re not having our best stretch for five or 10 minutes … we’re reversing it and getting back to our game. At the start of the year, we had a lot of trouble with that.”
Myers became the 11th Canuck this season to score a game-winning goal when his quick wrister from 50 feet tumbled past Loui Eriksson’s screen and into the Rangers’ net. The shift began with Bo Horvat winning a faceoff and included a semi-orbit of the offensive zone by rookie Quinn Hughes, whose assist gave him 30 points in 42 games.
“There are ups and downs, but at the end, we get the win,” Canucks winger Antoine Roussel said after opening the scoring just 1:46 into the first period. “That’s the best part.
“I wish we could dominate every single part of the game, but it’s not like that, as you know. It’s about managing those (low) moments and take the hurricane when it comes and live to fight another day.”
Or another shift.
The Canucks went nearly 57 minutes between goals. Chris Tanev’s turnover helped Rangers winger Pavel Buchnevich tie the game at 7:59 of the first period.
“We stuck with it, and had a good last shift,” Myers said.
Markstrom, who will be attending his first All-Star Game later this month, was good the whole night.
It was “Nineties Night” at Rogers Arena and the Canucks wore their old black, red and yellow uniforms. Looking a lot like Canucks great Kirk McLean, Markstrom’s biggest save was a retro-style stop on Jacob Trouba with 3:40 remaining when the goalie stacked his pads after scrambling to get across his crease.
“I watched hockey growing up,” Markstrom said of the pad-stacker. “It would happen more often than not back then.
“Games aren’t perfect and sometimes you’ve just got to be athletic. It’s about stopping the puck. It’s not textbook and how I really wanted it, but I stopped the puck and that’s the main part.”
“I was stacking my pads, too,” Roussel said. “It was a double-stack. I looked back, like: ‘What’s going on?’”
Hard to say.
The Canucks have won seven straight games, and the last time the franchise won eight in a row was the 2010-11 season – the year they went to the Stanley Cup Final (and last won a playoff round).
They’ve been significantly outshot four times during this streak, which followed a 1-4-0 dive, which followed a 3-1-0 rally, which followed a … well, you get the idea. As we said before, the Canucks are never dull.
But right now, they are a playoff team. They’ve got a lot of confidence and resilience, and one of the hottest goalies in the NHL.
“Part of the game we played really, really great, and some parts we didn’t play our best,” Markstrom said. “But we keep battling, we’re sticking together and we came out with a big win tonight.”
Asked about being named to Team Pacific for the All-Star Game, he said: “It’s obviously a huge honour, but I feel that’s more reflecting our team and the way we play. It’s everybody in this room who helped me. It’s not just me.”
Some nights, it has been just Markstrom.
The Canucks open a five-game road trip Tuesday in Tampa against the Lightning.