Takeaways: Canucks’ Pettersson continues to dazzle, even in loss

The Red Wings fought back from down 2-0 to prevail 3-2 after a shootout.

It took only 10 games to expose Elias Pettersson as human. What a disappointment. The super-rookie scored only once Tuesday as the Vancouver Canucks lost 3-2 in a shootout to the Detroit Red Wings.

OK, the 19-year-old did have five shots on net in 22:11 of ice time and was probably still the best Canuck. But Pettersson was foiled by the cross-bar on an overtime two-on-one and lost control of the puck in his shootout debut.

Pettersson’s single point – a rocket slapshot that opened the scoring in the first period – actually slowed his scoring pace slightly, leaving the Swede with 10 goals and 16 points in his first 10 National Hockey League games. Yes, that’s 10 goals in 10 games to start his NHL career.

He was the least of the Canucks’ problems. Vancouver didn’t have many, except that it failed to take advantage of first-half dominance by building a bigger lead, and when the Canucks finally did creep ahead 2-0, they let the Red Wings back into the game.

Gustav Nyquist banked the tying goal in off Canucks defenceman Troy Stecher at 1:37 of the third period, and Dylan Larkin beat Vancouver goalie Jacob Markstrom for the only goal of the shootout. Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard stopped 40 of 42 shots, then made two more saves in the shootout to halt the Canucks winning streak at three games.

The 9-6-1 Canucks visit the Boston Bruins on Thursday for the second game in Vancouver’s six-game eastern road trip.

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Turning point

The Canucks should have had this game wrapped up when Ben Hutton’s point shot sneaked through rush-hour traffic to make it 2-0 at 11:21 of the second period.

Vancouver, which outshot Detroit 22-7 over the first 26 minutes and could have been up by three or four goals, immediately went on the power play after an unsuccessful offside challenge by Wings coach Jeff Blashill on Hutton’s goal.

But instead of making it 3-0, the Canucks power play failed to generate a shot on target, the futility culminating in a holding penalty to Vancouver’s Adam Gaudette six seconds after the advantage ended.

Just 17 seconds into the Detroit power play, Justin Abdelkader latched on to a loose puck and lifted it past Markstrom to make it 2-1 at 13:43 of the second. It was game-on at that point.

Powerless play

The Canucks power play, which scored five times in the first five games of the season and has produced only four goals since, was blanked for the eighth time in 11 games. The absence of Brock Boeser, back out of the lineup due to a problematic groin, was noticeable.

With Pettersson dazzling everyone almost nightly, it’s easy to forget the Canucks are still missing from its power play top defenceman Alex Edler and playmaking forward Sven Baertschi. Boeser’s injury left Vancouver with only Pettersson and Bo Horvat from its original, effective first unit.

Brendan Leipsic failed to generate much as Boeser’s replacement, but the entire unit looked dishevelled.

Boeser’s absence is considered day-to-day (see below) but there is no return in sight for Edler (sprained knee) and Baertschi (concussion), so the power play may continue to be an issue.

The good news is Chris Tanev, the Canucks’ No. 2 defenceman, returned after missing five games with a bruised hip. He logged 22:37 of ice time, but only 25 seconds on the power play.


Brock not rock

If it’s an elephant in the room, at least it’s a baby one. But it is disconcerting that for the second time in two weeks, Boeser had to come out of the lineup due to a groin injury that has lingered since at least Oct. 18.

What made his scratch Tuesday more worrisome is that Boeser was coming off easily his best performance of the season last Friday – he had four points and eight shots on goal in 21:07 of ice time in the 7-6 thriller against Colorado – and had three full days to rest and rehab his groin before Vancouver played Detroit.

Boeser missed back-to-back games on the previous road trip, then played a full four-game homestand before coming out of the lineup again. He told Sportsnet last week that his groin wasn’t bothering him during games, but was sore after them.

Both he and the team are hoping he can play through the injury. But groin strains tend to get worse over time with activity; not better. And playing in the NHL is a pretty strenuous activity. Boeser, last season’s Calder Trophy runner-up and still only 21 years old, is far too important to the Canucks for he or the team to take chances with an injury.

He’ll try to play Thursday in Boston. But even if he does, nobody can say whether he’ll make the next game in Buffalo. The time could be coming – and soon – to shut down the sophomore until his groin fully heals and he can get through a game knowing he’ll be available for the next.

Pistol Pete

Seriously, does Pettersson ever score ugly goals? Well, actually the loose puck he hacked in through traffic in Friday’s overtime win against the Avalanche wasn’t especially pretty. But most of his goals have been sparkling examples of his skill, and so was Tuesday’s.

After making a defensive play in front of Vancouver’s net, Pettersson skated up the ice, moving right to left, and took a little pass in the neutral zone from Loui Eriksson after an Abdelkader turnover. Skating in uncontested on the left wing, Pettersson picked his spot and from just above the faceoff dot ripped a high slapshot post-and-in past goalie Jimmy Howard’s far side.

That kind of goal is mostly remembered in regular definition (Wayne Gretzky) or black and white (Bobby Hull) because goalies have become so good that unless they’re out of position or at fault they don’t get beaten on unscreened, angled shots from the circles. And yet Howard had no chance; Pettersson’s shot was unstoppable.

We knew the teenager had a world-class wrist shot, and we knew he had a great one-timer. Now we know he can blister it in stride, too.

It’s one more thing.

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