The Vancouver Canucks beat the St. Louis Blues, 4-3 in Game 5 to take a 3-2 lead in their best-of-seven series. The Blues won Games 3 and 4 after dropping the first two games of the series. The Canucks fought back in Game 5 after they were down 3-1, scoring three goals in a row to take the lead. J.T. Miller, Jake Virtanen, and Tyler Motte’s second-period goals fueled the comeback win on Wednesday night.
Green’s Line Changes
Throughout Game 5, head coach Travis Green made quite a few line changes to spark his team. Before the game, he added Adam Gaudette into the lineup, who replaced Zack MacEwen. He split up the Lotto Line to start the game as Bo Horvat centered Brock Boeser and Miller, while Pettersson centered Tanner Pearson and Loui Eriksson.
Once the Canucks went down 3-1, Green decided to alter his lines once again. Horvat was back with his usual wingers in Pearson and Eriksson, while Virtanen jumped up to play with Miller and Pettersson. Boeser slid down to the third line with Brandon Sutter. These line changes seemed to energize the Canucks as Pettersson’s line combined to score the team’s second and third goals to tie up the game.
Green has frequently changed his lines on the fly. Sometimes they work, and sometimes they don’t. In Game 5, they worked as they sparked the team’s comeback. Even with a 4-3 lead in the third period, he reconstructed his lines to how they have been throughout the series, aside from the addition of Gaudette. Perhaps Green continually alters his lines because he believes it gives his team the upper hand by throwing off the opposition, which it certainly did in Game 5.
The Canucks’ Comeback
Trailing 3-1, the Canucks were able to fight back to win a crucial Game 5. They rewrote the script since the team struggled in the previous game to make a comeback down 3-1 in the third period. The Canucks made a comeback in an important game for the second time in the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs. The first time being against the Minnesota Wild in Game 4 of the play-in round.
Brayden Schenn, Ryan O’Reilly, and Zach Sanford gave the Blues a 3-1 lead. Jacob Markstrom was called up to make a few big saves to keep his team alive, which led to Miller’s goal. Virtanen scored his first playoff goal to tie up the game, and Motte gave the Canucks the go-ahead goal before the second period ended.
The new core group in Vancouver has shown that they are capable of coming back when they’re down a few goals. Their successful comebacks in their first trip to the playoffs are a good sign of what the future holds for the Canucks.
Tyler Motte’s Big Night
The Canucks’ bottom-six has struggled to score a goal so far in this series against the Blues. That all changed on Wednesday night as Motte netted two goals. He took off after Alex Pietrangelo broke his own stick attempting to shoot, and undressed the Blues’ captain to score his first career playoff goal, which was shorthanded. His second goal was the game-winner, and it came as he pounced on a loose puck and beat Jake Allen to give the Canucks a 4-3 lead.
The Canucks added Motte at the 2017-18 trade deadline along with Jussi Jokinen in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets for Thomas Vanek. Motte was a fourth-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013. He dealt with a shoulder injury, which caused him to miss four to six weeks this season. He’s been an underrated player for the club all season long, and he was a strong candidate as the team’s unsung hero. Motte does a great job on the penalty kill and uses his speed to create scoring chances. He showed off both his strongest assets in the win on Wednesday.
Miller’s Point Streak
Miller’s second-period goal extended his post-season point streak to six games. His goal came off of a gritty effort from the forward in front of the Blues’ net. He fought to poke the puck past Allen to start the Canucks’ Game 5 comeback. Miller now has four goals and six points against the Blues this round. The eight-year veteran averaged 22 goals and 52 points from 2015 to 2018. In his first season as a Canuck, he had a breakout season, scoring 27 goals and a team-leading 72 points.
Through nine games this postseason, he’s already surpassed his career-high in goals (5) and points (9). Miller is still 27 years old, but he has brought quite a bit of experience to the young Canucks. He’s played in 61 playoff games over six seasons with the New York Rangers and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Through those six seasons, he has learned that anything is possible in the playoffs.
“Something I’ve been preaching to this team is that we need to play well enough to get into the playoffs. Don’t stress too much. Just try to get in. Anything happens when you get there,”Miller told ESPN in February
Markstrom Being Markstrom
Markstrom was unbelievable for the Canucks once again in Game 5. He has become a common theme in these takeaways, and that’s because he is the most consistent player on the team. All series long, Markstrom has been reliable for the club, even when they aren’t giving him enough help.
Down 3-1, Markstrom made a few big saves in the first 12 minutes of the second period and kept the team alive long enough for the Canucks to make a comeback. Even when his team was up 4-3, he continued to make saves to secure the win. He finished the game with 36 saves on 39 shots giving him a .923 save percentage on the night. He continues to give his team a chance to win in the 2020 playoffs, just as he did in the regular season.
Canucks Could Advance With a Game 6 Win
This is the ninth time in franchise history the Canucks hold a 3-2 lead in a best-of-seven series. They’ve gone 6-2 in the previous eight series, which includes three instances where the series-clinching win was earned in Game 6. There is a chance the Canucks may get Tyler Toffoli back for Game 6. Toffoli has been out with a foot injury since Game 2 against the Wild. He’d be a welcomed addition to the lineup, as he has played 48 career playoff games and has 21 career playoff points.
The Canucks may have to make more changes to their lineup in Game 6, as Alex Edler left the game after being hit in the face by a skate. The Canucks are already without defenseman Tyler Myers, so this may mean young defenders such as Olli Juolevi, Brogan Rafferty, or Jalen Chatfield will get an opportunity to play. Game 6 will take place on Friday at 6:30 P.M. PST.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.