A three-goal explosion was the foundation for a 4-0 victory to end a four-game losing streak and record just the third win in the last 14 outings

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In a complicated season, simplicity was the solution for a rare victory Monday.

For all the near misses, posts, crossbars and outshooting the opposition, the Vancouver Canucks subscribed to the time-honoured hockey theory of getting pucks through from the point and getting bodies to the net.

It wasn’t pretty, but it was effective.

On a night when a 44-foot shot by Antoine Roussel through the first 8:27 was all the Canucks could muster against the Winnipeg Jets, they would score twice in the next 18 seconds on goals by Nate Schmidt and J.T. Miller that were old school point shot and deflection efforts.

And when Nils Hoglander executed a deft deflection of a power play point shot by Tyler Myers less than seven minutes later, the three-goal explosion was the foundation for a 4-0 victory to end a four-game losing streak and record just the third win in the last 14 outings.

Elias Pettersson iced the win with an empty-netter as a reward for his hard work to blank the Jets.

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Travis Green was looking for an extra five or 10 per cent effort from his club and the Canucks coach got at least that. Maybe more.

“It was a solid game from top to bottom and we had some solid efforts,” said Green. “When you get up that early in a game, it’s not over. It can change fast. I like how we stuck with our game and stayed focused. We haven’t had a lot of puck luck and we’ve been talking to our group when you’re not scoring to go to certain areas and our defencemen have been working hard to get shots through.

“It paid off tonight.”

Here’s what we learned as Thatcher Demko recorded his first career regular-season shutout with 27 saves and the Canucks looked a lot like the club that won 4-1 in Winnipeg on Jan. 30:


Vancouver Canucks defenceman Nate Schmidt (88) celebrates his first period goal with Vancouver Canucks centre Brandon Sutter (20) against the Winnipeg Jets at Bell MTS Place.
Vancouver Canucks defenceman Nate Schmidt (88) celebrates his first period goal with Vancouver Canucks centre Brandon Sutter (20) against the Winnipeg Jets at Bell MTS Place. Photo by James Carey Lauder /USA TODAY Sports

SCHMIDT LOADS IT UP

In that Jan. 30 triumph, Schmidt had seven shots and 10 attempts.

On Monday, he was limited to one shot, but the two he got away in the opening period gave the Canucks confidence and the determination to not blow another early lead. On the opening goal, Schmidt’s first shot from the point was blocked by Mason Appleton, but he reloaded and the second attempt was aided by an Adam Gaudette screen, with the puck deflecting in off the stick of Andrew Copp.

Schmidt then got another shot through from the point and Miller got into position at the top of a crowded crease for the deflection and just his second goal in the last 11 games. It was Schmidt’s first multi-point game with the Canucks after being acquired in an off-season trade.

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And in a season where he has had adventures in his own end — kicking a puck to an opposing player for a goal, having one go in off his hand and putting the puck up the gut on a zone exit only to have it go off Demko and trickle in — it was far from a manic Monday. It was satisfying.

“I’ll take them,” Schmidt said of his two-point night. “Especially that first one. I was just trying to get one through and then Millsy (Miller) makes a really good tip on the second goal. That was an elite level play and it was good to get our guys in the game early and it gives you extra jump.

“We have to mature and learn to put teams back on their heels and not letting them back in. But it’s amazing how this game is. Over the last 20 games, I’ve seen a lot of things but tonight was good, especially early. It was a big moment to get going and play that same game the rest of the way. We know what happens if you let a team back in and leave the result up to chance. That was the main message.”

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Schmidt was fourth in shots among Canucks defencemen entering Monday with 36 in 24 games, but is capable of more because he skates well enough to join the rush and can move into position for point shots that get through.

“As a defenceman, that’s hard to play against,” he said. “When guys are walking the line and getting pucks through quick, you can’t really set yourself and find somebody. There are more chances on those plays when there’s chaos. You’re trying to find the puck and trying to find your guy.

“And we need to be better as a D-core. We’re getting some opportunities in shooting for sticks and making sure we get our shots through. It’s the lane. If we can get to that second layer then all bets are off and bounces happen and deflections happen. That will get guys going, too. When you can get yourself into those areas, that’s where the goals are scored.”


Vancouver Canucks defenceman Travis Hamonic (27) defends against Winnipeg Jets centre Paul Stastny (25) as goaltender Thatcher Demko (35) makes a save in the first period at Bell MTS Place.
Vancouver Canucks defenceman Travis Hamonic (27) defends against Winnipeg Jets centre Paul Stastny (25) as goaltender Thatcher Demko (35) makes a save in the first period at Bell MTS Place. Photo by James Carey Lauder /USA TODAY Sports

DEMKO IS IN DENIAL

There were a couple oh-oh moments in the second period where the Jets could have clawed back into the game, but Demko twice denied Kyle Connor.

The Jets winger had two great chances. One came from the slot and another when he bolted from the corner and tried to go short side high on the stopper. And in the third period, Demko made an early right-pad save off Blake Wheeler on a 2-on-1 break and thwarted him again on a redirect in the crease. Mark Scheifele was then stopped on a shot and rebound attempt as Demko made 15 saves in the frame.

Demko was aided by a collective effort because the Jets were limited to a dozen shots through two periods. They boast three snipers in top 20 league scoring in Scheifele, Nikolaj Ehlers and Wheeler. But they were held to seven combined shots and even after the shutout, Demko was more composed than ecstatic, which speaks to his growth after 27 games in a tandem with Jacob Markstrom last season.

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“You’re just trying to get the win and take it one shot at a time and I saw them pull the goalie to give it one last effort and saw the clock winding down and, other than that, I wasn’t thinking about it too much, added Demko. “It was nice. The guys played real solid tonight and we’ve talked of playing a full 60 and the first two periods I didn’t see much.

“They’re a good team and they were going to push in the third and we did the right job of handling that. A lot of it is just learning and you learn how to manage things day to day and playing is nice and getting into a rhythm. I just have to work and continue to grow.”

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Schmidt saw Demko excel in the post-season last summer. The former Las Vegas blueliner watched Demko make 42 saves and then a 48-save shutout effort as the Canucks rallied to force Game 7 in the second-round playoff series.

“I try to black out those memories,” laughed Schmidt. “They are selectively deleted. He was fantastic tonight and looked so comfortable back there. He was there when we needed him.”


Vancouver Canucks forward Nils Hoglander (left) attempts a lacrosse-style goal on Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck in Winnipeg on Mon., March 1, 2021.
Vancouver Canucks forward Nils Hoglander (left) attempts a lacrosse-style goal on Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck in Winnipeg on Mon., March 1, 2021. Photo by Kevin King /Kevin King/Winnipeg Sun

BEST HOGLANDER HOME?

For any rookie winger, being deployed on the second line and seeing tougher line matchups and stronger defensive combinations is a tough way to break into the NHL. Especially when you’re small in stature yet big in heart.

For Hoglander, a shift to the third alignment with Brandon Sutter and Gaudette afforded a chance to be good defensively and in transition. And with his play away from the puck a work in progress, it was still his nose for the net that was his calling card in the first period.

On a new-look second power play unit. Hoglander stood his ground in a crowded slot and deflected a Myers shot for his fourth goal of the season to provide a three-goal cushion.

“It’s a lot to ask for a first-year guy to come in and play against the top guys in the league and he has done a great job,” said Bo Horvat. “But obviously, it’s a lot of hockey and it will take time. It’s for development to play up and down the lineup.”

Said Hoglander: “Whatever line I play on, I try to play my best every game. And our line was pretty good.”

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Hoglander also had some good second-period moxie on a rush with Gaudette in which he bobbled the puck at the side of the net when it looked like he was going to load up a lacrosse-style goal.

“It was a good opportunity to try that, but nothing happened but it was a good try,” said Hoglander. “I don’t feel any pressure to do that.”

In Sweden, they call the shot the Zorro and Hoglander has executed it twice. The first came during a Swedish Hockey League outing with Rogle BK Angelholm. The second was in the 2020 world junior tournament where he compiled 11 points (5-6) in seven games to finish third in event scoring as Sweden claimed bronze.


J.T. Miller (9) celebrates his first period goal with team mates against the Winnipeg Jets at Bell MTS Place.
J.T. Miller (9) celebrates his first period goal with team mates against the Winnipeg Jets at Bell MTS Place. Photo by James Carey Lauder /USA TODAY Sports

ON PAPER, PP1 GREAT

This is how it was supposed to work with a PP1 wrinkle.

With Pettersson and Brock Boeser switching sides, the thought was they were better positioned to get pucks to the net and Pettersson could also run plays off the half wall. With Miller down low and Horvat in the bumper position, the plan wast to funnel more pucks down into the dirty areas and score a greasy goal.

That would help end a 1-for-13 PP funk entering Monday and being blanked in seven of the last 13 games during a 2-9-2 slide. In the first period, Pettersson did his job by drawing his 13th minor of the season, fourth overall in the NHL, but little happened after that. Indecision and no shots and then the same story on a third-period advantage.

bkuzma@postmedia.com
twitter.com/benkuzma


NEXT GAME

Tuesday

Vancouver Canucks at Winnipeg Jets

5 p.m., Bell MTS PlaceTV: SNP. Radio: Sportsnet 650 AM


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