VANCOUVER -- One month of turbulence, one night of relief.
The Vancouver Canucks created a little calmness on Friday, beating the Winnipeg Jets 3-2 at Rogers Arena to end a five-game losing streak and cap a week that included a summit between their general manager and owner and unyielding chatter among fans and the media about who should be fired first.
Everyone gets to keep their job for now -- or at least until Sunday’s home game against the Chicago Blackhawks -- after the Canucks fixed for one night the special-teams problems that had given them little chance of winning this month.
Vancouver’s power play managed nearly three weeks’ worth of productivity: two goals. And their historically bad penalty killing was perfect; the Canucks took no penalties.
They still needed a point-blank save at the buzzer from goalie Thatcher Demko on Nikolaj Ehlers, and Vancouver’s chip-it-out defending the last half of the game caused some anxious moments. But after Pierre-Luc Dubois scored for the Jets with 2:28 remaining in regulation time, the Canucks managed to maintain their one-goal lead for just their second regulation win on home ice this season.
But the significant damage they’ve done to their playoff chances looked no less severe with the team now 6-10-2 through 18 games.
“Obviously, it hasn't been going the way we want it to the last few here, and we've got some ground to make up now,” Demko told reporters after finishing with 37 saves. “Hopefully, tonight's a start of stringing a few together here and just building off one another and building some confidence in the room.”
It has been a while since the Canucks used that particular C-word.
The power play had been blanked in nine of the previous 10 games, during which the Canucks had an unsurvivable and unbelievable special-teams deficit of 19-3.
But after coach Travis Green significantly remade his power-play groups by dropping struggling forwards Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser to the second unit, each unit produced a goal as Vancouver built leads of 2-0 and 3-1.
After crisp, quick puck movement unseen on a Vancouver power play in many games, Oliver Ekman-Larsson whipped a wrist shot through traffic to make it 1-0 at 13:51 of the first period. For the new first unit’s goal, Alex Chiasson found Conor Garland alone in the slot with an excellent pass out of the corner, and the latter player zipped a slapper over Winnipeg goalie Eric Comrie’s right shoulder to make it 3-1 at 6:54 of the second.
“It's hard to score in this league,” Garland said. “You never know when you get another one, so just enjoy it. It was a big goal for us. It was a power-play goal and the other unit -- we split up today -- had one. So it's a big night for our power play. And it was the difference in the game. So we're excited to get some confidence now and get rolling.”
Asked if the personnel changes added a freshness to the power-play units, Garland said: “We've switched up a few times this year. It's just trying to find the right combinations. We've got a lot of talent, a lot of really offensive players. Sometimes it's hard to find what spot works for some guys. I've played, I think, three different spots. So, we're just trying to find it. Hopefully, these units work.
“Confidence is huge in everything, right? You've got to believe in yourself as a player to go out there and make plays, and the power play's a big responsibility. When you have opportunities, especially in the game like today, you have to make the most of it.”
The Jets power play had no chance. Literally.
After bleeding goals while short-handed at a record rate, the Canucks weren’t called for any penalties, ending Vancouver’s streak of 10 straight games with one or more (usually, it was more) power-play goals against.
“Penalty kill was 100 per cent,” Demko cracked. “That's huge. I thought the guys were on their toes playing hard defensively, first and foremost. And the (power play) came through with a couple of big goals there and, you know, everyone loved seeing Burr get his first one. I think just our commitment for 60 minutes, start to finish, was solid and that's something that we've got to continue to do here.”
Burr 2.0, who is defenceman Kyle Burroughs, as opposed to the original Canuck Burr, Alex Burrows, scored his first National Hockey League goal in his hometown, wristing a point shot through Pettersson’s screen early in the second period.
An unforgettable night for our hometown guy! pic.twitter.com/PVWEVHxHid
— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) November 20, 2021
It was the 26-year-old’s 19th NHL game, and he scored in his seventh professional season after spending nearly 350 games in the minors.
“I kind of got hit. . . as soon as it left my stick, so God knows what happened,” Burroughs said. “I think I was the last one to celebrate.”
The crowd of 18,628 was way ahead of him. The goal was a nice moment for his city and his team.
Nobody was calling for general manager Jim Benning’s scalp with chants “Fire Benning” late in the game on Friday. Instead, the crowd sang a showtune from Grease.
“I’ve got chills, they’re multiplying.”
The Canucks sure hope so.