The Vancouver Canucks tied up their second-round series against the Vegas Golden Knights thanks to a 5-2 win in Game 2 on Tuesday night. The Golden Knights dominated Game 1, winning 5-0 as Robin Lehner finished with a 26-save shutout.
Tyler Toffoli returned to the lineup and provided his club with an offensive boost, scoring the first goal of the night and then assisting on Bo Horvat’s power-play goal to give the Canucks a 2-0 lead. Alex Tuch provided depth scoring for Vegas cutting the lead to one goal, but Elias Pettersson and Horvat extended the lead to 4-1. Max Pacioretty gave the Golden Knights some life, scoring late in the third, but Tanner Pearson iced the game with an empty-netter. Jacob Markstrom made 38 saves, while Lehner struggled, stopping 22 of 26 shots.
Here are five takeaways from the Canucks’ Game 2 victory.
Toffoli has not played since Game 1 of the play-in round against the Minnesota Wild. He was seen in a walking boot after suffering an undisclosed injury in the opening game and missed the play-in round and the Canucks’ first-round series against the St. Louis Blues. He finished Game 2 with one goal and two assists.
Toffoli replaced Loui Eriksson, who has been useful on the team’s penalty kill. However, Eriksson has zero points in 10 playoff games while playing in the top-six. Head coach Travis Green decided to replace the penalty-killer for some much needed offensive help in this series, and it paid off. Toffoli was reunited with Pearson, his “That 70’s Line” linemate from their time playing for the LA Kings, and Pettersson centered the two. The trio finished the game with seven points.
Pettersson’s Best Game
After registering zero shots on net in Game 1 and being called a little squirt by the Golden Knights, Pettersson said he and his teammates needed to be better in Game 2 (from ‘Game of Chirps: Why Vegas is the meanest team on the ice,’ The Athletic, 08/24/2020). It didn’t take long for him to get the Canucks on the board, as he set up Toffoli for his first goal of the 2020 Playoffs, and later added an assist on Horvat’s goal.
In the second period, he scored an amazing goal to extend the lead to 3-1 and which was the eventual game-winner. Pettersson finished the game with one goal and two assists, giving him 16 playoff points, two points behind NHL playoff scoring leader Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado Avalanche); he started the game five points behind MacKinnon.
Game 2 was one of the best games of Pettersson’s young career. He bounced back from a disappointing performance in Game 1 to lead his team to victory. Not only did he open up the scoring, but he got his team back on track late in the second period after Vegas split the lead in half.
Bo Horvat Leads in Goals
Horvat’s goal-scoring hasn’t been consistent in these playoffs, but when he does score it’s twice in one game. The Canucks’ captain has scored two goals in three separate games. He trails Pavel Bure (5) and Cliff Ronning (4) for the most multi-goal games in one postseason for the Canucks. His first goal of the night was on the power play, and his second was the team’s fourth goal of the night.
He now has eight goals to lead the playoffs. He entered Game 2 on a five-game goalless drought that started after he scored four goals in the first two games against the Blues. He answered the bell Tuesday night with a big game for his team that tied up the series.
Markstrom Does it Again
Markstrom continues to be the Canucks’ best player. He deserves the most credit for their wins. The Golden Knights outshot the Canucks 22-7 in the second period in Game 2 but came out of it down 3-1. This speaks volumes to Markstrom’s value to the club.
The Canucks should have been down after the second period but emerged with a two-goal lead. They had a better third period as both teams finished with 12 shots each. Markstrom made 38 saves and ended the game with a .950 save percentage. Given his performance in the playoffs so far, Markstrom should get paid a large sum this offseason.
Will Fleury Start Game 3?
In my Game 1 takeaways, I wondered if we’d see Marc-Andre Fleury at some point in this series. He has an impressive 12-2-2 record against the Canucks and hasn’t lost to the club since 2006. Lehner hasn’t given Vegas a reason to replace him until now.
He followed up his shutout performance in Game 1 with a disappointing effort in Game 2. He made 22 saves for a .846 save percentage; it was his second loss of the postseason.
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Lehner might get one more shot in Game 3, but if the Golden Knights lose the game, head coach Pete DeBoer will likely switch goalies. Fleury has only started two games in these playoffs to Lehner’s eight. This isn’t the first time Fleury has lost the starting job during the playoffs. With the Pittsburgh Penguins, he lost the starting job to Tomas Vokoun in 2013 and then to Matt Murray in 2016 and to Murray again mid-way through the team’s Cup run in 2017.
Best of Five Series
With the series tied at one, it is now a best-of-five. The Canucks stepped up in Game 2 after looking outmatched in the first game. Pettersson and co. made sure it didn’t happen again. The return of Toffoli was a huge boost, as the team has been waiting for him for some time. Now, they’ll just have to wait for Tyler Myers. Game 3 will take place on Thursday at 6:45 P.M. PT.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.