Swiss Army Knife: Canucks’ Suter quietly proving versatility with standout game

Jake Neighbours had a goal and an assist and Brayden Schenn fired home the game-winning goal as the St. Louis Blues outlasted the Vancouver Canucks' third-period rally to top them 4-3 in overtime.

VANCOUVER – On a night when everyone was staring at what the Vancouver Canucks had on their heads, not one fan shed their hat in the moment for Pius Suter’s hat trick.

Typical. Not for the fans, but for Suter, who is a quiet guy, rarely in the spotlight but always on the coaching staff’s radar for the things he does well. Suter is an understated player who is quietly having a strong season for the Canucks.

As dependable as he is versatile, and able to play anywhere in the lineup from the first line to the fourth and either centre or on the wing, Suter is the kind of player every team needs. A Swiss Army Knife, he also happens to be Swiss.

None of the fans at Rogers Arena seemed to notice Suter’s hat trick, even if its completion was unmissable: a tying goal with 52 seconds remaining in regulation time that salvaged a point for the Canucks, who rallied from two goals down in the third period before losing 4-3 in overtime to the St. Louis Blues.

The Canucks’ new, unnaturally sparkly, chrome-blue helmets got a lot of attention before and during Wednesday’s game, but nobody in the stands was willing to donate a hat until the ice was scraped before the three-on-three session and after arena announcer Al Murdoch informed everyone of Suter’s second NHL hat trick.

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Amazingly, his other one was scored three years earlier, to the day, in Suter’s sixth National Hockey League game with the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Canucks outshot the Blues 32-18 but trailed most of the game and lost at 1:54 of overtime when Brayden Schenn knocked down Elias Pettersson in front of the Vancouver net and used the extra space to beat goalie Casey DeSmith with a glove-side wrist shot.

Suter scored all three Canuck goals in the third period on the night he was moved to left wing on a line with J.T. Miller and Brock Boeser. Suter has 12 goals in 34 games as a Canuck.

“I was obviously happy with that,” Suter, a 27-year-old from Zurich, told reporters. “We rallied back from being down two goals twice. Obviously, couldn’t finish (the win). Kind of disappointing.

“Obviously, you know, you’re on a line that’s supposed to score. In the end, you’re just trying to play your game, win those 50/50 battles, get to the net. Sometimes they go in like today, and then other times you hit the post or something.”

While Miller was hitting posts, his new linemate was scoring.

Suter scored on a rebound at even strength, from the low slot on the power play and tied the game six-on-five by getting just enough of a bouncing puck that caromed to him from Miller’s skate to send it tumbling over St. Louis goalie Joel Hofer and tie the game 3-3.

Miller finished with one assist, and Boeser and defenceman Quinn Hughes had two each.

“I talk about it for me all the time — just predictability,” Miller said of Suter’s strengths. “He’s a guy that’s very easy to play with. He’s a guy that can hop in anywhere, very versatile. On good teams, you always have guys like him. He doesn’t complain a day in his life. He just fills in where they tell him to go, and he’s playing every single position. Like I said, he’s fun to play with. Every faceoff play he goes to the net. Sometimes pucks just bounce onto your stick and he’s got enough skill to put them away.”

After spending the last two seasons in Detroit and the one before in Chicago, Suter is on a playoff-bound team for the first time.

He was expected to centre the Canucks’ third line, but Teddy Blueger took over that job between wingers Conor Garland and Dakota Joshua when Suter was injured Nov. 12 in Montreal. Blueger hasn’t been dislodged since and the Life Line has been the Canucks’ best for a month.

Since his return from injury, Suter has centred the fourth line, played wing in the top six with both Elias Pettersson and Miller at centre, and for most of the nine games before Wednesday centred the second line between Ilya Mikheyev and Andrei Kuzmenko.

Suter also kills penalties and plays the power play.

“I wouldn’t say I expected it,” he said of the many role changes. “At the beginning of the year, I was set on a line and I got hurt. Obviously, I’ve kind of been moving around a bit, but that’s just been part of my game the last few years. I can’t complain about that.

“It’s awesome fighting for a playoff spot. That’s really exciting. It’s a lot of fun winning. It’s much more fun when. . . if you play well and know you can get points from any team. I’m repeating myself here, but it’s a lot of fun, right? It’s exciting.”

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Maybe he’ll be moving back to centre. Coach Rick Tocchet didn’t like Pettersson’s game Wednesday when the All-Star-Game-bound scoring star was moved off Miller’s wing and back to centre between Mikheyev and Kuzmenko.

“Listen, the Miller line was great,” Tocchet said. “Millsy and Sutes were really good tonight. (We had) some individuals that played really hard for us.”

And Pettersson?

“I haven’t liked his game the last three or four games,” the coach said. “We’ve got to get him going. I think he’s got to skate. He’s got to start skating a little bit. I think he’s good with the moves sometimes, but I think when you have speed and make those moves, that’s when he’s at his best. We’ll get him going.”

They have one game left before the All-Star break to try. The Columbus Blue Jackets visit Rogers Arena on Saturday.

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