The Vancouver Canucks (36-27-6) will be looking to even up their series with the Vegas Golden Knights (39-24-8) on Thursday. Vegas currently leads the series 3-2. At the abrupt conclusion of the regular season, the Knights were the first in the Pacific Division with 86 points. Their bubble record has been just as impressive, as they’ve won ten of the thirteen games they’ve played. The Canucks finished the season third in the Pacific with 78 points, and they’ve only won nine of the fifteen games they’ve had so far. The last time these teams met was on Monday night, where the Canucks saved themselves from elimination with a 2-1 win.
Goalie Change Pays Off For VancouverFor all fourteen games that Vancouver played in the bubble prior to game five. Jacob Markstrom was their netminder. He played every game without fail. This even included a recent back-to-back pair of games. However, following game four, it was announced that Markstrom was day-to-day with a groin injury. This left backup goalie Thatcher Demko in a tight spot. While he had come in as relief in one game in the postseason, this would be his first-ever career postseason start. And in a game where his team had a very high chance of being eliminated. During the regular season, Demko went 13-10-2 in his 25 starts and had a save percentage of .905 and a 3.06 GAA.
Demko was certainly the highlight of the game for the Canucks, though he wasn’t the only star. Despite only getting a horribly low amount of shots throughout the game. In the second period, the team only had four shots, and in total, they ended the night with seventeen. Luckily, the few shots they did get on Vegas ended up converting. The Canucks’ first goal of the game was an answer to a goal just 24 seconds before. In the final five minutes of the period, Brock Boeser responded to Vegas’ only goal of the game to tie things up for his team. The second and final Vancouver goal came from Elias Pettersson who now has seven goals in the postseason. Thatcher Demko stole the show from everyone on the ice, though. He faced an absolute mountain of shots, 43 in total, and only allowed in a single goal in the second period. He had a .977 save percentage that night.
Knights In Danger Of Losing LeadWhat once looked like an almost guaranteed trip to the Western Conference Finals for the Knights has become decidedly less certain. When they hit the ice for game five, every advantage seemed to be on the side of the Knights. They’ve had two shutout wins during the series, they had a near completely healthy roster, and they were facing a goalie who had only eight minutes of playoff experience in his career. But, even with all of that, they were unable to put down the Canucks. Despite arguably playing a better game as a whole than the Canucks, they still dropped the contest, and now face the possibility that their lead will slip away from them. The Knights had 43 shots on goal, well over double the amount that the Canucks managed. They once again fell short in the faceoff circle, though, winning only 47.6% of the faceoffs taken.
As mentioned, the Knights were only able to get one of their 43 shots past Demko. While that shot volume isn’t actually that surprising when it comes to the Knights, who have had 36.4 shots per game in the bubble, but the lack of scoring is. This is only the second time in the postseason that the Knights haven’t scored more than one goal. Both games were losses. The team’s only point came with less than five minutes to go in the second period. Shea Theodore, who leads the team in assists, got his fifth goal of the playoffs to put his team up for the first and only time in the game. That wouldn’t last even 30 seconds, though. In net for the Knights was Robin Lehner in his tenth start of the postseason. He allowed 2 goals on 17 shots for a save percentage of .882.
- The Knights are 4-9-3 when their opponent scores first on the road.
- The Knights are 6-16-2 overall when trailing after the first period.
- The Canucks are 22-11-0 overall when outshot by their opponent.
- The Canucks are 24-6-1 overall when scoring first.