EDMONTON — It was nine years and a lot of pain in the making but the Vancouver Canucks have finally won a post-season series.
Here’s what we learned from their 5-4 overtime win over the Minnesota Wild on Friday night at Rogers Place:
Canucks show pluck in comeback
Elephants give birth with less effort, but after gift-wrapping a 3-1 lead for the Wild in the second period, then allowing a go-ahead goal late in the middle frame, the Canucks came back on Bo Horvat’s late goal in the third before Chris Tanev won it just 11 seconds into overtime. Tanev’s long wrist shot beat Wild goalie Alex Stalock.
The veteran defenceman also picked up two assists and was a standout the entire game. Tanev and Alex Edler are the only two remaining Canucks from the team that beat San Jose in the 2011 Western Conference Final.
“It’s fun to win,” said Tanev. “The puck just bounced over their winger’s stick. I walked to the middle and I was shooting for (J.T. Miller’s) stick. He just missed it. I don’t know if that fooled the goalie.”
“Chris is the heart and soul of this team,” said Quinn Hughes, Tanev’s rookie defensive partner. “It was awesome to see him score there.”
Along the way to extra fun, the Canucks survived a substandard outing by all-star goalie Jacob Markstrom and an inexplicable penchant for taking bad penalties, but still found a way against a Wild team that took the lead three times but couldn’t close the deal. The Canucks won the best-of-five series 3-1 after dropping Game 1.
“Obviously this franchise has been through a lot,” said Horvat. “The last four years of missing the playoffs, we’ve taken it to heart. We wanted to come out and prove ourselves.
“We’ve got a lot more work to do. This is just the first series of many. We can’t wait until the next one.”
Vancouver takes the fifth
The Canucks’ series win leaves them as the fifth seed in the West. Calgary (eighth seed), Arizona (11th) and Chicago (12th) all advanced, which means the Canucks jumped a couple of spots after starting the qualifying round as the seventh seed. Edmonton (fifth), Nashville (sixth) and Winnipeg (ninth) have all been eliminated.
The Canucks will meet the loser of the St. Louis-Dallas round-robin game Sunday. The Western Conference quarterfinals are scheduled to start Tuesday.
Marky was off the mark
Markstrom was the team’s MVP and an all-star this year, but he picked a bad time to have one of his worst outings of the season. The Wild, playing without team captain and blue-line leader Ryan Suter, opened scoring three minutes in on a goal by Ryan Hartman, then built a 4-3 lead through two periods.
The four goals came on 21 shots. Nico Sturm’s go-ahead goal late in the second frame came from a sharp angle and went through Markstrom. Eric Staal’s goal late in the first, after Tanner Pearson had tied the game, also came from a sharp angle.
Joel Eriksson Ek scored the third goal when Markstrom failed to control the rebound. Markstrom, however, stopped all seven shots in the third period, including a big pad save off Matt Dumba.
“I think our team played a great game and I’m so happy we won,” Markstrom said with a straight face when asked about his performance. “I’d like to thank all the players for scoring one more goal than I let in.”
“Marky doesn’t give himself enough credit,” said Horvat. “He’s been a brick wall for us all year. We wouldn’t be in this position without him.”
Between Kunin’s goal and Pearson’s goal in the first period, the Canucks outshot the Wild 11-2. After Eriksson Ek’s goal, they struck twice in just over a minute on goals by Brandon Sutter and Hughes.
Horvat and Tanev both finished with three points.
“I actually picked (Tanev) in the pool, so I’m happy about that,” Canucks head coach Travis Green said of his rearguard, who scored all of two goals during the regular season.
Lots of heat from the get-go
After a lethargic start to Game 3, the opening three minutes on Friday night produced a fight between Jake Virtanen and Ryan Hartman, another in a series of penalties to Tyler Myers and a power-play goal for the Wild.
Moments after Myers was sent off with his eighth minor of the series, Kunin took the puck to the net from the faceoff and stuffed it past Markstrom.
No Suter for Wild, Olli’s first for Canucks
Minnesota played without Suter, who was out with an undisclosed injury. Suter averaged a team-high 24:08 over the first three games of the series.
For the Canucks, rookie Olli Juolevi played his first NHL game. The fifth overall pick in the 2016 draft was a late substitute for Oscar Fantenberg.
“To be honest, the coaches were probably more nervous than him,” Green said of Juolevi. “I haven’t seen him a lot. We just felt he was the guy to go in. You never forget the first NHL game you play.”
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