They could have been given a forgiving mulligan on Monday afternoon.
With everything the Vancouver Canucks accomplished in their first six stops on an impressive seven-game sojourn — including reuniting the high-octane Lotto Line — they could have easily swung and missed against the struggling Blue Jackets. And nobody would have really complained.
Well, these Canucks aren’t wired that way. Even though exhaustion got the better of them.
A zigzag trek from Buffalo, to Toronto, and finally to Columbus on Sunday to escape a howling blizzard and 70 centimetres of snow that bombed the Buffalo area, could have left their legs in Buffalo. And by the third period, it looked like it.
The Canucks did hit stride early, had their sloppy defending and penalty-plagued moments in the middle frame, and found themselves in an overtime struggle. Casey DeSmith stopped Cole Sillinger and Johnny Gaudreau in the extra session before a shootout went to the fourth round.
That’s where Kirill Marchenko poked his effort thought the pads of the Canucks backup stopper to seal the deal in a 4-3 triumph.
It was an exhausting conclusion to a 5-1-1 trip that also saw the club’s gaudy 26-0-0 mark when leading after two periods finally fall.
Here’s what we learned as J.T. Miller, Conor Garland and Elias Pettersson scored and DeSmith made 38 saves for the Canucks, while Dmitri Voronko scored twice and Yegor Chinakov also found the net for the Blue Jackets:
Some sleepwalking in CBJ
The concerns were obvious.
Long travel day, normal routines messed up, body and mind not in sync. Just enough to throw the Canucks off track.
Still, Brock Boeser had five shots in the first period and a backhand chance sailed over the crossbar. Miller opened scoring with a point shot that struck a trio of defenders before finding net. He added an assist on Petterson’s second period power-play goal to hit 60 points and move into third in league scoring.
However, the Canucks also paraded to the penalty box as Ian Cole, Nikita Zadorov and Tyler Myers took lazy penalties by not moving their feet.
DeSmith’s head on swivel
The backup could have got his back up with a lot of sloppy play.
He faced 22 shots in the second period. There were enough wild scrambles to have him become unglued, but that’s the thing with DeSmtih.
One of smartest management moves in the off-season was to get a leg up on goalie management. Keeping starter Thatcher Demko sharp, engaged, rested and healthy meant landing a proven backup.
DeSmith had that 25-to-30 start pedigree with the Pittsburgh Penguins and his 7-4-2 record speaks of confidence to play him in any game, not just back half of back-to-backs.
The second period shot flurry by the Blue Jackets tested DeSmith’s resolve.
He denied Sillinger and Gaudreau in one down-low sequence. He lost his goal stick in a crease scramble and was sent sprawling in a collision with Pettersson on a penalty kill. He bailed out Zadorov on a turnover by denying Jack Roslovic.
DeSmith thwarted a speeding Voronkov and got a glove on another hot Voronkov shot on the same power play before keeping a deflected puck from finding the net at the second-period buzzer. The goals that beat him came off a screen, a tip and bad defending.
Third line really needs name
We tried to give them a name.
You know, something catchy like RUN-D. T. C, as in first initial for Dakota Joshua, Teddy Blueger and Conor Garland. Or maybe, The Joshua Three, Simple Minds and The Life Line?
After all, they have often been the engine to help drive an aggressive forecheck, which has often led to scoring chances. It happened again in the first period Monday. Joshua went heavy on the endboards forecheck and got the puck to Blueger in the corner. He spun a found a wide-open Garland in the slot to make it 2-1.
“I don’t really like all the hoopla,” stressed Joshua. “We’re not coming up with one (name) because that comes with expectations. We’d rather nobody knew about us. I just want to keep going about my job and not get caught up in what’s going.”
That’s fine. But Joshua has already matched a career high with 11 goals, including five goals in a six-game span last month. Blueger has been a menace in the middle and Garland has had a recent run of eight points in eight games.
OVERTIME — The Sportsnet broadcast team of John Shorthouse, Dave Tomlinson and Dan Murphy, who fly commercial, were sent home from Buffalo for precautionary reasons due to wild weather. Mike Luck, Sam Cosentino and Sean Reynolds had the call Monday.
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