The Habs and Canucks were right back at it on Thursday night for the second game of this three-game series. The Habs dressed the same lineup of skaters, with Jake Allen getting the start as expected in the back-to-back scenario. Things were not as great for the Canucks as they saw both Alex Edler and Travis Hamonic go down to injury which meant they dressed three rookie defencemen alongside sophomores Quinn Hughes on the blue line and Thatcher Demko in net.
This promised more offence to continue yesterday’s offensive festival and that’s exactly what this game delivered. The only problem (a good problem for the Habs that is) is that once the second period came, the scoring became completely one-sided. The Habs dominated Vancouver’s young blue line and to make matters worse, more guys went making it a real head-scratcher for the Canucks when thinking of Saturday’s finale. Jalen Chatfield didn’t finish the game and Tyler Myers is likely to get a call from head office for a late hit on Joel Armia. A relatively dumb hit considering the score was 6-3 with fewer than three minutes to play. Regardless, the Habs went on to crush the Canucks by a 7-3 final score.
The Habs came out with energy as the Phillip Danault line attacked on the first shift. On the second shift, only 1:54 into the game, Tyler Toffoli continued his hot streak by smashing home the puck after a strong Jesperi Kotkaniemi forecheck created a scramble in front of the net.
Only 1:20 later, Bo Horvat tied it up when he tipped in a Myers point shot. 35 seconds later, Jonathan Drouin took a hooking minor 200 feet from his net. However, it was Toffoli coming up big again. The hot winger jumped on a fanned breakout attempt and found a streaking Armia who had a partial break to beat Demko to restore the lead.
1:15 later, it was Brett Kulak’s turn to the sin bin for slashing. This time, the Canucks made them pay with the exact same bumper play they used twice last night. They found Horvat off the bumper who one-timed it home to tie it again with only seven minutes expired in the game.
The scoring simmered for the rest of the period but the parade to the penalty box did not. Myers took an interference minor where Demko kept it tied with a solid save on Jeff Petry after a nice pass by Toffoli. Jake Virtanen, Ben Chiarot, and Myers would keep the penalty box occupied as the scoring settled down as the first drew to a close. At the buzzer, Joel Edmundson finished his check and was called for interference in what was a questionable call to end the period.
The penalty kill came out firing as Armia picked off the cross-ice blue line pass and fed Toffoli who made no mistake in getting the Habs the lead. Vancouver took a penalty before Nick Suzuki took one for retaliation on Horvat.
The game slowed down as both teams appeared afraid of being called for soft penalties and they were right as the parade continued when Danault was called on a trip. Jake Evans continued his aggressive play on the penalty kill as he forced Demko to make a nice save on a breakaway. Myers was then called again, but the Montreal man advantage was once again quite static in the offensive zone and so it was mostly covered and one-and-done chances.
The scoring flurry resumed in the final five minutes, only this time it was completely one-sided. It started with an attempt to dump and change by Brock Boeser. The only problem is that he dumped it right on Allen. The rebound went right to Drouin who fired it up the ice to a cheating Suzuki. Suzuki was stopped on his breakaway but Josh Anderson batted home the rebound to make it 4-2.
Nine seconds later, Alexander Romanov dumped the puck in and Paul Byron hustled to retrieve it before a Canuck defender. He fired the puck to the front of the net where Evans was salivating at the opportunity to one-time it home for a 5-2 lead.
They weren’t done as 1:25 later, Kotkaniemi intercepted a clearing attempt and found Armia down low. Armia showed some patience and some nice hands in waiting out Demko until he had an empty net to make it 6-2. Vancouver would challenge the goal, I think mostly to stop the momentum. The challenge failed, but the Habs did nothing with their power play.
The third period saw both teams come out and essentially go through the motions. Both teams had to be tired and with the series-deciding contest set for Saturday, it seemed pre-determined that neither team really wanted to go all-out in this period. Five minutes into the period, Brandon Sutter undressed Romanov being roofing a highlight-reel backhand over Allen’s shoulder. With 11:20 to play, Shea Weber released a blue line bomb that hurt Byron. Byron did return but it was a strange decision to even take the shot by Weber.
Artturi Lehkonen then hit the post with a delayed penalty, a too many men call against the Canucks which seemed really pointless at that moment in the game. Then with less than three minutes to play, Tyler Myers laid out Armia. It was a dumb hit, it’s definitely going to get reviewed by the league and if he does get suspended (I’m not entirely sure he does), he’s really placed his team in a bad spot with potentially three starting defenders already injured, he’d be the fourth regular defenceman on the shelf for a play in a game that was already over?! Just dumb in my book. Chiarot scored on the extended power play to end the game 7-3
HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars
1st Star – Tyler Toffoli
Toffoli has looked like a 50-goal scorer since arriving in Vancouver. Everything he touches has found its way to the back of the net. He even got points shorthanded on this night. It was another big game for him as he was dangerous all night long. Should be interesting to see if he can keep it up on Saturday.
Stats: 2 goals, 1 assist, +4, 6 shots, 2 hits, 18:11 T.O.I.
2nd Star – Joel Armia
It feels like the noise to get Armia off the third line might die down considerably after this one as Armia used his size and puck protection skills to completely baffle the inexperienced defenders from Vancouver. Armia was going toe-to-toe with Toffoli for the game’s best player as he put up four points. Ironically, it likely will also come with his removal from the line for health issues as he was absolutely clocked in the final moments of the game and was diagnosed with a concussion.
Stats: 2 goals, 2 assists, +3, 3 shots, 11:44 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Jake Evans
Evans has been the team’s best penalty killer so far this season and if he can get better on the draw, he’d really be the total package on the fourth line. He’s been physical, speedy, and aggressive on the puck. Oh yeah, the line has also shown an ability to score with some regularity. The rest of the division cannot possibly like what they are seeing from Evans and his linemates right now.
Stats: 1 goal, +1, 2 shots, 1 hit, 14:11 T.O.I.
Honourable Mention – Jesperi Kotkaniemi
Amazing what a few points can do. All of a sudden Kotkaniemi is shooting, showing patience with the puck, and making the correct reads in the offensive zone. There’s no denying Kotkaniemi was playing well away from the puck since game one of this season. Now he’s added the confidence to make the right play with the puck and now the line has been on absolute fire for the last two games.
Stats: 1 assist, +1, 2 shots, 13:34 T.O.I.