Here’s what we learned as the Canucks won for the sixth time in their last eight games:

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These Senators aren’t those Senators.

Remember January?

Ottawa was spanked like little kids being taught a lesson in three lopsided losses at Rogers Arena. Outscored 16-3 and failing to put a dent in Thatcher Demko, who had 35 and 42-save efforts in 7-1 and 5-1 dominations to open that three-game series and post his first two wins of the season, it was disaster.

Fast forward and the Senators have a bit of a swagger.

They had won five of their last six home starts heading into Monday’s meeting with the Vancouver Canucks and have three wins over Toronto and Montreal. However, playing on consecutive nights and forced again to defer to backup goalie Joey Daccord with starter Matt Murray injured in the warm-up Sunday, the Senators could have gone quietly into the night.

They didn’t.

The Canucks opened a 2-0 first-period lead on goals by Jayce Hawryluk and Tanner Pearson, but Josh Norris responded in the second period and then Colin White scored with 2:10 remaining in regulation time with the goalie pulled. In overtime, J.T. Miller went to the deke to seal the deal and Demko finished with 44 saves in his sixth-straight start as the Canucks claimed a 3-2 victory.

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“I knew we were going to get a change and they had a long way to go and their guys had been out there for a long time,” said Miller. “I just tried to bust through and they were more tired than anything and I just tried to make a solid move.”

It was a good ending to a night where the Canucks weren’t at their best.

“They have some skill and can force you into mistakes and we gave them too much,” added Miller. “We know that. We’ll take the points and we’ll be better and we’re good at responding when we haven’t been at our best. We had more urgency in the third and played with desperation, but it’s very simple and black and white with our team. When we execute and have good details, we play better.”

Travis Green would second that emotion.

“I’m happy we won, but we didn’t skate very well or pass the puck very well and our goalie gave us a game,” said the Canucks coach. “We looked sluggish tonight and had passes that were bouncing off sticks and passes that we should have made and didn’t.

“The best part was our first 10 or 11 minutes of the third with a little push and we found a way to win it.”

Here’s what else we learned as the Canucks won for the sixth time in their last eight games:


Vancouver Canucks centre Jayce Hawryluk (13) celebrates with teammates after scoring against the Ottawa Senators in the first period at the Canadian Tire Centre.
Vancouver Canucks centre Jayce Hawryluk (13) celebrates with teammates after scoring against the Ottawa Senators in the first period at the Canadian Tire Centre. Photo by Marc DesRosiers /USA TODAY Sports

DEMKO DELIVERS AGAIN

Good to be lucky and lucky to be good.

Once again, Demko was very good and the sound of pucks pinging off posts and the crossbar was the luck that comes with proper positioning. But it was more than just that. The Canucks were outshot 18-9 in the first period and from the outset the starter was tested.

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It started when Miller hit the post off a bad Thomas Chabot exit pass and then the Senators defenceman jumped up in the play to get a hot shot on Demko. After Brady Tkachuk hit the post on the power play, Miller’s cross-ice pass in his own zone was picked off and Demko was forced to make a trio of saves.

On a second period power play, Demko denied Tkachuk with a quick post-to-post move to get his right pad on the puck. It took the 21st shot to finally beat Demko after Nate Schmidt failed to clear the zone and Tim Stutzle’s shot hit the post before Norris deposited the rebound.

Connor Brown was then left unattended at the side of the net before Nick Paul put a point shot off the crossbar. And on a third-period turnover, Drake Batherson had a chance to draw the Senators even. So did Chris Tierney.

“The two points is all that matters right now,” said Demko. “Our third period was pretty solid and tonight I was just trying to make saves.”

As for the post and crossbar dings and pings, Demko summarized the unnerving sound as best he could.

“In the game, you’re telling yourself that’s all he had to keep the confidence high,” admitted Demko. “Obviously, they hit a couple tonight and you check quickly behind you to make sure it didn’t go post and in. Once you confirm that, you can take a quick sigh of relief. It’s just part of the game — sometimes it happens.”


PEARSON GETS A GIFT

Tanner Pearson wouldn’t have drawn it up this way.

Mired in a 12-game goal drought, the winger knew he had to play in traffic to score something greasy to get off the schneid.

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On Saturday, he had six shots and 10 attempts and also blocked three shots in a 2-1 win over Edmonton. On Monday, he streaked to the slot in the opening period and then received a room-service exit pass from White, who had his back to Pearson, and put the puck right on the tape.

Hawryluk’s goal came from doing what any fourth-liner has to do. Get on the forecheck, get to the net and look to ram or jam a puck home. He did just that off a rebound for his first goal of the season and a memorable effort against his former club.

“It was nice to see the puck go in and I thought my line played well and generated a lot of chances and it definitely feels good to get a goal against your former team,” said Hawryluk.

However, the Canucks struggled to get the third goal and Bo Horvat was aligned with Nils Hoglander and Brock Boeser while Miller centred Pearson and Jake Virtanen. It led to Horvat being denied early in the third period.


Vancouver Canucks centre Adam Gaudette (96) tries to move the puck past Ottawa Senators goalie Joey Daccord (34) in the first period at the Canadian Tire Centre.
Vancouver Canucks centre Adam Gaudette (96) tries to move the puck past Ottawa Senators goalie Joey Daccord (34) in the first period at the Canadian Tire Centre. Photo by Marc DesRosiers /USA TODAY Sports

KILLING THEM SMARTLY

The Canucks were missing three injured penalty-kill regulars in Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel and Tyler Motte and the Senators went 0-for-4 on the power play. That said something.

In a season when the penalty kill has wavered from struggling to successful to something in between, it was left to the pairings of Brandon Sutter and Loui Eriksson and Pearson with Miller to keep help keep the Senators from striking and either getting back on even terms or taking the lead.

“It was a big part of the game,” acknowledged Green. “In a game like this and you’re not playing well, that was probably a bright spot.”

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PONDERING PETTERSSON

Elias Pettersson has missed the last six games and isn’t on this four-game trip.

The Canucks centre was placed on injured reserve last week, and depending on the exact nature of the ailment, he may not play until after the team’s March break. If Pettersson is indeed nursing a wrist injury — he was banged up March 1 in Winnipeg and played the next night in the Manitoba capital — then there should be no push to rush the restricted free agent back into the lineup.

After this trip, the Canucks have home games on March 22 and 24 before their break. And in Pettersson’s absence, the Canucks aren’t hurting. They’re 7-for-16 on the power play in their last eight games with Miller running the show on the half wall and Pearson joining the first unit as the down-low presence.

bkuzma@postmedia.com
twitter.com/benkuzma


NEXT GAME

Wednesday

Vancouver Canucks at Ottawa Senators

4 p.m., Canadian Tire Centre. TV: SNP. Radio: Sportsnet 650 AM

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