Look good. Feel good. Do good.
That the was the tantalizing trifecta the Vancouver Canucks hoped to cash in on Tuesday at Rogers Arena.
Fittingly clad in their eye-popping throwback black-skate jerseys on Halloween, buoyed by an encouraging 5-2-1 start, owning the NHL’s best goal differential at even strength, and icing the type of disciplined game that could once again subdue the pesky Nashville Predators, it had all the potential for treats and no tricks.
It wasn’t easy.
Canucks at Sharks
Thursday, 7:30 p.m., SAP Pavilion
TV: Sportsnet Pacific. Radio: Sportsnet 650.
After a sluggish start, and an error-prone first period, the Canucks found their way through a clogged neutral zone, exerted pressure and got the puck to sharpshooting Elias Pettersson. He scored twice to erase a 2-1 deficit, and then added an empty-net goal for his second career hat trick to power a 5-2 victory that once again tested the collective resolve.
“You earn your day,” Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet warned following the morning skate. “Our first period. Stay with the identity. We’re trying to be stingy and limit shots and can we get more offensive opportunities? And I think there are. It’s five (players) connected.
“Sometimes, we’re a little stagnant but we’re not giving up stuff.”
Well, they did give up too much in the opening frame.
However, when it mattered most, J.T. Miller made up for an off night, and three frustration penalties, by delivering the dagger. On an early third-period shift, he stationed himself down low to set a screen. And when Brock Boeser shot, he was there to pounce on a loose puck and jam it home.
Here’s what else we learned as Sam Lafferty also scored for the Canucks while Colton Sissons and Dante Fabbro replied for the Predators:
Pettersson’s release is ripe
The Canucks centre didn’t load up the cannon Tuesday. No slapper clocking 98 miles per hour.
It was a pair of perfectly placed wrist shots that gave Pettersson another weapon in his growing arsenal of become a difference-maker. And the quickness in which he got both shots away were the difference in not allowing goaltender Kevin Lankinen enough time to establish position.
Pettersson’s first goal came by dangling into the high slot and releasing a wrister stick side just as Ilya Mikheyev set a screen. He was then stationed at the faceoff dot in the offensive zone on the power play and picked the stick-side corner.
Hughes hits another lofty plateau
With his assist on the opening goal, the Canucks captain hit another plateau.
After being denied early off a cross-ice feed, he danced at the blue-line and let a shot rip that bounced in off Lafferty, who had set the screen.
It allowed Hughes to become the second active defenceman to hit 250 career points in fewer than 300 games. He accomplished the feat in 292, joining Cale Makar who needed 241 games.
Hughes then made it 251 points early in the second period by setting up Pettersson on the power play. And he got to 252 on Miller’s marker in the third.
Ironically, Hughes and Filip Hronek, who had combined for being on the ice for 20 even-strength goals and just three against, were on the ice for both Predators goals in the first frame that weren’t their fault. Faulty coverage by forwards led to the double dose of trouble.
First period, frustration
Give the Predators some props.
They knew to exact revenge on the Canucks for a 3-2 loss the previous Tuesday in Nashville — where they were held to 18 shots — they had to heed the call after being called out that night.
“Credit to them (Canucks),” said head coach Andrew Brunette. “They trapped extremely hard. They did to us what we would have liked to do to them. They deserved to win. We didn’t.”
The Predators had clogged up the neutral zone Tuesday like the No. 1 Highway at rush hour. They denied the Canucks easy entries and forced that extra pass that often killed transition momentum.
And even when the Canucks gained the O-zone, they looked somewhat tentative. A Pettersson feed to Tyler Myers in the opening two minutes lacked zip. The Predators sped away on a 3-on-1 break that resulted in a Myers slash and a Liam Foudy penalty shot. However, he lost an edge on his attempt and shot wide.
The Predators then struck twice in 30 seconds to erase a 1-0 deficit on a pair of plays that Thatcher Demko would like to have back. He first went for the poke check on Foudy to put himself out of position and the bouncing puck found an untouched Sissons. Fabbro followed with a shot between Demko’s arm and body.
If that wasn’t enough, Miller then took a frustration-laden double minor — hooking and unsportsmanlike conduct — to keep the Canucks from gaining momentum.
OVERTIME — Centre Teddy Blueger (ankle) is expected to skate in the next day or so. “He will add a lot to our game,” said Tocchet.
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