The Vancouver Canucks just might pull off their miracle. The Canucks have no chance of making the playoffs.
It’s difficult to decide sometimes with which of these polar-opposite beliefs to subscribe. It can change by the shift.
Thursday against the San Jose Sharks -- a team that looks undecided about trying to make or miss the National Hockey League playoffs -- the Canucks looked single-mindedly determined to do something.
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) February 18, 2022
Either very good or very bad, they built a couple of two-goal leads, looked as porous defensively as a tea strainer while somehow surrendering a trying goal with less than a second remaining, then won 5-4 in overtime when J.T. Miller beat San Jose goalie James Reimer cleanly from distance during a delayed penalty. It was Vancouver’s 12th shot in 45 minutes.
It’s hard to know what to make of it all except the Canucks are resilient and despite significant flaws, including awful special-teams work on Thursday, continue to cling to the coattails of the Western Conference playoff race after playing themselves back from nowhere in December.
“We are always going to have faults in our game and nothing's going to be perfect,” Canucks coach Bruce Boudreau said. “But hopefully come Saturday, we'll start to play a more complete game. I mean, if we could play the game that we played in the first period. . . we've just got to play it for three periods.”
The Canucks outshot the Sharks 15-4 in the first period, then were outshot 24-10 over the next two. Their power play went 0-for-4, while the penalty-killing allowed the Sharks to go 2-for-3.
And after allowing Alexander Barabanov to score with less than a second remaining -- a goal unimaginable when the Canucks cleared their zone with 10 seconds to go and had five skaters lined up to defend -- Vancouver still managed to win when Elias Pettersson found Miller open across the ice at 2:39 of OT.
It was the second straight game when the Canucks got everything when they could have had nothing.
They beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 on Saturday on an epic performance by goalie Thatcher Demko, whose team was outshot 53-24.
Finally close to healthy after Quinn Hughes and Matthew Highmore returned to the lineup Thursday from COVID-19 protocol, the Canucks have won consecutive games for the first time in a month, and second time since their 8-0-1 start under Boudreau in December.
Vancouver opens another critical three-game homestand Saturday against the Anaheim Ducks.
“You've got to find ways to win games at this time of the year,” Canucks winger Conor Garland said. “We didn't have our A-game against Toronto, found a way to win. We didn't have our A-game here, still found a way to win. It's a wakeup call. We've got to start playing a little better here.
“A little deflating (on the tying goal) but we had a good talk right before overtime just to forget about it, refocus and try to get one. We can't let those two points slip, especially with what we have to do these last 30-odd games. That's a big-time goal there in overtime.”
The Canucks opened the scoring when Miller ended a sequence of crisp passing by setting up Brock Boeser, who displayed patience before beating Reimer short-side at 14:54 of the first. Hughes made it 2-0 at 17:40, bouncing a shot through Highmore’s screen.
Tyler Myers’ own goal, trying to block Logan Couture’s pass on a three-on-two rush after a poor Vancouver line change, brought the Sharks into the game at 3:35 of the second period. But Canuck Kyle Burroughs shot off teammate Juho Lammikko at 10:49 to restore the two-goal lead.
Consecutive power-play goals by Timo Meier, one near the end of the second period and the other at the start of the third, made it 3-3 before Garland put the Canucks ahead with 5:37 to go after an outstanding goalmouth pass by Burroughs.