Canucks Takeaways: ‘Bubble Demko’ form continues as goalie shows brilliance vs. Kings

Elias Pettersson forced overtime with a mid-third-period goal, J.T. Miller had a pair of assists and scored the game-sealing shootout goal, and the Vancouver Canucks defeated the Los Angeles Kings 3-2.

On the second shift of the third period Saturday night, the Los Angeles Kings buzzed the Vancouver Canucks’ net, generating seven shots in 34 seconds.

Four of the shots, including three point-blank rebound chances, came in rapid succession starting at 1:40 of the final frame, but the Kings did not score and extend their lead.

This dizzying pressure was significant for a couple of reasons. It was a frenetic snapshot of Canuck goalie Thatcher Demko’s outstanding evening, when his 38 saves included a second-period penalty-shot stop against Adrian Kempe. It was also indicative of game flow, as the Kings generated more shots in those 34 ticks (seven) than the Canucks had in the game’s first 48 minutes (six).

But one player, Demko, was mightier than the Kings’ force of nature as the Canucks, absurdly, won Saturday’s National Hockey League game 3-2 in a shootout when Andrei Kuzmenko and J.T. Miller scored in the skills competition while their goalie stared down Gabriel Vilardi and Trevor Moore.

For five decades, the hockey gods haven’t allowed the Canucks to win. And now, to re-assert their vengeance — or display their sense of humour — they won’t let Vancouver lose.

Their sixth win in seven games in garbage time moved the Canucks into a tie with the St. Louis Blues for 24th in the overall standings – and the ninth-best draft-lottery odds. This is Vancouver’s highest point in the standings since Bruce Boudreau was replaced by Rick Tocchet as coach on Jan. 22.

Elias Pettersson tied the game 2-2 at 11:33 of the third period by shooting post-and-in behind Los Angeles goalie Joonas Korpisalo, screened by Brock Boeser, seven seconds into Vancouver’s only power play.

Boeser, who drew the key tripping penalty against Mikey Anderson, also scored on a first-period muffin that knuckled off the stick of Kings defenceman Alex Edler and eluded Korpisalo from distance.

The Canucks won despite being outshot 40-17 and managing, during the middle 35 minutes of regulation time, just two shots. They won because of Demko.


Saturday was Demko’s eighth start in nine games since returning from a groin injury that kept him out nearly three months. He is 6-2 with a .927 save rate. In the Canucks’ wildest dreams, they couldn’t have imagined that their franchise goalie would return in form that rivals any two weeks he produced last season when he was one of the top half-dozen goalies in the NHL.

They just wanted him to stay healthy and work his way back into form after starting the season 3-10-2 with an .883 save percentage. Instead, he has been instant Bubble Demko, coming in cold but producing brilliant form like he did in the pandemic playoffs three years ago.

The saves he made during that third-period barrage when the Kings led 2-1 seemed even more impressive after Pettersson scored. But his biggest saves came just before the tying goal when he stopped Phillip Danault on a wide-open chance from the slot, then a minute later stacked his pads like Kirk McLean to deny Anze Kopitar on a two-on-one.

Draftists and tankists screaming for backup Collin Delia to play ahead of Demko will get their wish Sunday when the Canucks close their three-game, four-night road trip against the Anaheim Ducks.

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It was a low bar, but easily the best five minutes by the Canucks were at three-on-three, when they barely allowed the Kings to touch the puck during seven overtime shifts and generated grade-A scoring chances for Pettersson, J.T. Miller and Anthony Beauvillier.

Tocchet used 10 different skaters during overtime and, interestingly, started it with Phil DiGiuseppe out with Miller and Quinn Hughes. Miller and Hughes had assists on both Vancouver goals.


Ethan Bear, the Canucks’ No. 2 defenceman until Filip Hronek eventually shows up on the ice after arriving injured in a deadline trade from the Detroit Red Wings, returned to the lineup for the first time since taking a puck in the mouth during a Feb. 25 game against the Boston Bruins. After suffering significant dental damage and a hairline fracture above his lip, Bear wore a full face shield.

He had not the luxury of tip-toeing his way back, logging 23:46 of ice time while blocking four shots (none in the face). Five-on-five shots were 14-3 for the Kings when Bear was on the ice, but he did look more comfortable towards the end of the game and received two OT shifts from Tocchet. Bear replaced Tyler Myers in the lineup, the Canucks reporting that Myers was ill.

Winger Jack Studnicka also returned after sitting out six straight games as a healthy scratch. Studnicka logged a team-low 8:41 of ice time, as Vitali Kravtsov was scratched by Tocchet for the first time since his Feb. 25 trade from the New York Rangers.


“Demko was incredible tonight. He kept us in the game. We didn’t have an answer the first two periods. We kind of played better in the third. Ropey-dope and you win the game.

“We can’t afford to let’s wait for next year. These are important games for us. We’re trying to build stuff around here. And we have guys trying to stay on the NHL roster. There’s a lot for us to play for.”

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