Canucks beat Nashville to close out tough road trip; Horvat enters protocol
Tuesday, January 18 - Vancouver Canucks 3 - Nashville Predators 1
Despite losing Bo Horvat to Covid protocols, the Vancouver Canucks overcame a 1-0 deficit and closed out their tough road trip with a win in Nashville.
Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and Juho Lammikko had the goals. Thatcher Demko made 31 saves while playing his third game in four days.
On paper, it looked like the Canucks had a shot at victory, with Nashville in a 0-2-1 mini-slump and on a back-to-back with David Rittich in net, following a tough 5-3 road loss to St. Louis on Monday.
But Horvat's addition to the Covid list, alongside Jaroslav Halak, Conor Garland and Ashton Sautner, left Vancouver significantly shorthanded — especially on the dot.
Horvat is one of only three players in the league to have taken more than 800 faceoffs so far this season, and even leads the other two by a wide margin. He has taken 891, and won 56.5% of those draws. Patrice Bergeron is second at 821, and Anze Kopitar is third at exactly 800.
And it's not like the Canucks are used to getting by without their captain. Before Tuesday, he hadn't missed a game in nearly four years, when he fractured his ankle in December of 2017.
Horvat's absence meant that Elias Pettersson moved back to the middle against the Predators, after he scored two goals while being deployed on left wing against Washington on Sunday.
Pettersson managed four shots against the Capitals, his highest shot total since November 21. On Tuesday, it was his shooting percentage that got the boost. His conversion of Vasily Podkolzin's initial shot, over a sprawling Rittich, tied the game 1-1 midway through the second period, was his only shot of the game.
Petey survived in the circle, winning three draws out of eight, and Jason Dickinson was also OK in limited use, winning three out of five.
When I heard the news about Horvat, I expected to see J.T. Miller take virtually every face off. And he was busy, going 11-for-23 while taking nearly half of the game's 48 draws.
The rest were covered by Juho Lammikko, who took a season-high 20 draws and was a solid 50%. That eclipsed his previous high, an 8-for-13 showing over the weekend against Carolina.
All told, Lammikko is a steady 52.6% for the year in the circle, with a good amount of his work coming in the neutral and defensive zones. In terms of success rate, he's just behind Miller (53.3%) and well ahead of Dickinson (43%) and Pettersson (40.7%).
And he scored again! That fourth line has been clicking nicely of late, now that Tyler Motte and Matthew Highmore are patrolling the wings.
At 25, it's not like Lammikko is a raw rookie or is just learning the North American game. The big Finn first came to North America in 2014, playing his junior hockey with the Kingston Frontenacs, and toiled in the AHL before finally getting his crack at the top level.
He split his 2018-19 season between AHL Springfield and the Florida Panthers, then went back to Finland for the 2019-20 season and started the 2020-21 campaign in the KHL. He returned to Florida when the shortened season began last January.
Still, Bruce Boudreau sounds like he sees Lammikko as a player with more upside that can still be unlocked.
Lammikko will get another crack at his old team, the Panthers, when the Canucks open their three-game homestand on Friday — with attendance still at 50% of capacity.
They'll also see St. Louis (Sunday) and Edmonton (next Tuesday) on the homestand. Then, they head back on the road for four games — including another visit to Nashville — before the All-Star break. They won't play in the U.S. again until Jan. 31, though. So let the fun begin with collecting two Canadians, and American and a Slovak who have been left behind in Covid protocol, and getting them back across the border.
The revised post-All-Star schedule is expected to start on Monday, Feb. 7, and should be released any time now.
As of Wednesday morning, there's still nothing official. But Patrick Johnston from The Province shared the list of rescheduled Canucks dates that he's heard on Tuesday.
With five of seven Canadian teams in action on Tuesday for the first time in what seems like forever, I was going to say that they had a good night. As well as the Canucks victory, Montreal won its first game in more than a month, taking down Dallas on the road. And Calgary took advantage of a Florida team that may have had a little too much fun in Banff before visiting the Saddledome on Tuesday and falling 5-1. That snapped a four-game losing streak for the Flames, and avenged the 6-2 loss in Sunrise that kicked off that streak on Jan. 2.
The news was not as good for the Winnipeg Jets, who fell 4-3 in overtime to Washington. And after cruising through Alberta last week with wins over the Flames and Oilers, the Ottawa Senators fell 3-1 to the Buffalo Sabres, in their first home game since Dec. 11.
Out of all that, the Canucks leapfrogged the Oilers and the Stars in the Western Conference standings on Tuesday night. Back at .500 with an 18-18-3 record, they sit 11th in the West with 39 points as of Wednesday. They're five points behind eighth-place San Jose, with the Flames and the Jets still in their way. Games-in-hand remain an issue, but upcoming divisional matchups are going to be massive.
The season series against the Flames alone could be a game-changer. Vancouver and Calgary are set to face each other for the first time this year at the end of next week, at the Saddledome on Jan. 29.