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I Watched This Game: Canucks collapse to the Wild in bizarre 10-7 loss

The Wild and Canucks combined for three hat tricks in the weirdest game of the season.
The Vancouver Canucks gave up seven third-period goals to the Minnesota Wild in the weirdest game anyone will ever watch.

This was the most bizarre hockey game I have ever seen in my entire life.

The Vancouver Canucks — who are still first in the NHL, mind you — gave up seven goals in the third period to the Minnesota Wild. Add in the Wild scoring with 33 seconds left in the second period and that’s eight goals against in 20-and-a-half minutes. That turned a 5-2 for the Canucks into a 10-7 loss — their first regulation loss of the season when going into the third period with a lead. 

That 10-7 score is straight out of the eighties, back when goaltenders wore leather sacks stuffed with bunched-up newspapers for pads. The three goaltenders — two from the Wild and one Canuck — combined for a .694 save percentage. Three players — two from the Wild and one Canuck — had hat tricks.

But it wasn’t just that this was a high-scoring game with a ludicrous number of goals in the third period — it was how those goals were scored.

Four of the Wild’s ten goals came on the power play, with three of those four scored on two-man advantages. Three of the Wild's goals went in off skates — two from the Wild and one Canuck — and two went into an empty net, including a buzzer-beater that felt especially unnecessary.

It’s the power play goals that are going to have Canucks fans fuming, of course, as once again the officiating took the spotlight. 

It’s unusual for a team to get more than one two-man advantage in a game. They simply don’t happen that often. For a team to get four 5-on-3 power plays in one game — lengthy ones, to boot — is extremely unusual. 

Some Canucks fans might even cry conspiracy, suggesting that the referees were out to get the Canucks after Tyler Myers’ comments about the officiating after Saturday’s game against the Winnipeg Jets, when he said, “It felt like we were battling two teams tonight.”

But it’s more accurate to just describe it as a lack of discipline by the Canucks. Just one of the Canucks’ penalties was questionable — a pillowy-soft roughing penalty on Elias Lindholm as he bumped into Joel Eriksson Ek on his way to the bench for a line change after Erikson Ek had thrown a late hit on Teddy Blueger.

It was a terrible call, especially to put the Canucks two men short, but let’s keep some perspective. It came after the refs had already ignored some blatant interference by Tyler Myers on the Canucks’ opening goal and the Canucks killed off the 5-on-3 that ensued, so it didn’t have a significant impact on the game.

The rest of the calls were above board and essentially had to be called. 

Conor Garland’s high stick before Lindholm’s penalty was blatant. They got Nikita Zadorov’s holding penalty wrong but only in the sense that it should have been a tripping penalty on Ilya Mikheyev instead, as both players combined to take down Brandon Duhaime. Teddy Blueger’s high stick shortly after that turned it into a 5-on-3 was careless and undisciplined — an obvious penalty. 

After that, Elias Pettersson got his stick into the hands of Mats Zuccarello on a grade-A scoring chance, which possibly saved a goal but is also the type of thing that always gets a penalty call, giving the Wild another 5-on-3. Then J.T. Miller launched a puck over the glass from the defensive zone — an automatic penalty — for the fourth 5-on-3 of the game.

Sure, there were other oddities from the officials — an obviously wrong goal call that got overturned after video review and a significantly less obviously right decision to not blow the play dead on a Wild goal — but this Canucks loss is not on the officiating. The Canucks put themselves in a bad position with penalties that the officials had to call, then lost their composure and let the game get completely away from them.

“You’ve got to learn how to play under pressure,” said head coach Rick Tocchet. His assessment of the penalties had nothing to do with the officials: “It’s actually stupid stick penalties. You can’t do it and we’ve got to learn. When you play under pressure, you cannot do those things.”

Preferably, the Canucks would learn how to play under pressure now rather than in late April when the playoffs start. Not that you’re likely to see this type of game from the Canucks in the playoffs. In fact, I don’t think I’ll ever agains see anything like what I saw when I watched this game.

  • Like a J.J. Abrams project, this game started so well and ended so badly. Ian Cole opened the scoring for the Canucks with a rare goal. He took advantage of a Tyler Myers pick and a Brock Boeser screen to snap the puck past Filip Gustavsson’s blocker on the Canucks’ first shot of the game.
  • The Canucks’ second shot of the game made it 2-0. Noah Juulsen’s point shot deflected wide but the puck caromed to J.T. Miller, who had an open net with Gustavsson scrambling. With two goals on two shots, it seemed like the Canucks were once again blessed by the hockey god PDOseidon. 
  • Tocchet pointed to the Wild’s late first-period goal as an issue multiple times after the game, as the Canucks had a chance to take a two-goal lead into the first intermission. It was a rare mistake by Quinn Hughes, as he waited too long to turn in the neutral zone and got beaten to the net by Joel Eriksson Ek. While Hughes was able to tie up Eriksson Ek’s stick, he was still able to angle the puck into the net with his skate.
  • A dominant sequence of three separate shifts led to the 3-1 goal. The fourth line, Miller line, and Pettersson line each poured on the pressure in turn, with Pettersson, Elias Lindholm, and Nils Höglander ultimately taking advantage of the tired Wild. Lindholm swung the puck down low to Höglander, who shook free of a check and found Pettersson, who had snuck his way to a soft area of the ice to smoothly fire the puck in to make it 3-1. It’s a goal that was too beautiful for a crude and ugly game like this one.
  • The Canucks’ power play snapped an 0-for-20 streak to make it 4-1 a few minutes later. It was a simple play: Miller rotated into the high slot, waited for Brock Boeser to set a screen, then snapped the puck off the post and in as soon as he knew Gustavsson couldn’t see him. Miller seemed focused more on the quickness of his release than anything else and it’s likely he was looking for a Boeser tip. Instead, the shot was perfectly placed all on its own. 
  • Hughes and Hronek were on for another goal midway through the second period, as the Wild caught them coming onto the ice on a bad change. Eriksson Ek banked the puck up to Matt Boldy for a breakaway. It wasn’t a surprise to see Boldy go where many men have gone before: top shelf over Casey DeSmith’s glove. 
  • This play was inconsequential to the overall game but I still thought it was neat: Conor Garland executed one of the cleanest acts of pickpocketing that I’ve seen in some time, divesting Ryan Hartman of the puck on the backcheck.
  • Miller completed his hat trick with a fantastic goal to make it 5-2. Pius Suter’s pass deflected into the neutral zone and Wild defenceman Zach Bogosian reached for the puck, killing his backward momentum. That gave Miller the room he needed to chip the puck up the right wing and burst past Bogosian. He avoided Bogosian’s swinging stick check by putting the puck under Bogosian’s stick and his own stick over Bogosian’s giving him a clean look to shoot past Gustavsson on the short side. 
  • That should have given the Canucks a three-goal lead heading into the second intermission, but just like in the first period, they gave up a last-minute goal. On the second of the Wild’s four 5-on-3s, Mats Zuccarello tried to send a pass to the backdoor but it deflected in off Ian Cole’s skate. PDOseidon giveth and PDOseidon taketh away.
  • The scariest part of the game wasn’t the cavalcade of Wild goals in the third period but Conor Garland collapsing to the ice after blocking a shot with his right knee. Garland was completely unable to get up and had to be helped off the ice while putting no weight on his right leg. Fortunately, he returned in the third period, suggesting the puck hit a nerve and gave him a dead leg.
  • The Wild nearly got another before the end of the second. The Wild crashed towards the net off the rush and, as DeSmith was pushed into the post, knocking the net off its moorings, the puck ended up in the net. Instead of immediately going to video review on the confusing sequence, the officials instead declared it a goal, which looked ludicrous when the overhead camera showed the puck clearly went wide and was kicked under the side of the net. All it accomplished was riling up Canucks fans to think the fix was in, then riling up the Wild fans when the goal was overturned.
  • Marc-Andre Fleury came into the game for Gustavsson in the third period, which is probably why the Canucks lost. All that guy knows how to do is win.
  • 28 seconds into the third period, the Wild made it 5-4 on their third 5-on-3 of the game. Zuccarello centred for Eriksson Ek and Tyler Myers wasn’t strong enough on his stick to prevent the tip-in goal. 
  • Here’s where things get controversial. On their fourth 5-on-3 of the game, the Wild created a mad scramble in front off a shot by Boldy. The Canucks felt that the puck was covered up and play should’ve been blown dead but the puck came out of the chaos and was passed to Kirill Kaprizov for the 5-5 goal. 
  • This won’t be a popular opinion but I think the refs got this call right. The puck was never covered up by DeSmith at any point in this wild scramble and when Cole tried to jump on the puck, it kept sliding out from under him. While play is supposed to be called when the referee loses sight of the puck, referee Jon McIsaac is right on top of the play and seems to have a clear line of sight the entire time. I just don’t think the puck was ever frozen long enough to draw a whistle.
  • This is where the Canucks needed to refocus and get the game back on track. They had given up a three-goal lead and the game was tied, but it didn’t need to get any worse. But, of course, it got worse as Eriksson Ek completed his hat trick with a power play one-timer, as the Canucks penalty kill didn’t notice him shading to the left side in the bumper.
  • Eriksson Ek’s made it 6-5 but there was still time to staunch the bleeding. But then a centring pass deflected in off Marco Rossi’s skate after he won a battle down low against Quinn Hughes, who had a rough game. At that point, staunching the bleeding was no longer enough; the Canucks needed a tourniquet.
  • The game continued to go off the rails. Noah Juulsen hit Pius Suter in the skates on a breakout, causing a turnover and the Wild capitalized, as Boeser failed to pick up Kaprizov on the regroup. That’s the thing: it wasn’t just the power play goals against but that the Canucks allowed those power play goals to throw off their entire game.
  • To the Canucks’ credit, they kept battling. Miller made a fantastic play along the boards to get free of Eriksson Ek, then hit Nikita Zadorov with a cross-ice pass. With Boeser again setting a perfect screen in front with his obnoxiously opaque body, Zadorov rifled the puck past Fleury to make it 8-6 midway through the third period.
  • Then Boeser scored one himself to bring the Canucks within one with two minutes to go. At 6-on-5 with DeSmith pulled for the extra attacker, Quinn Hughes fired a slap pass into the slot and Boeser deflected it in to make it 8-7.
  • Alas, the ludicrous comeback was not to be, as the Wild scored not one but two empty net goals. The second one felt a little unnecessary, to be honest. The Canucks were content to let the clock run out on the absurd game and Kaprizov hustled onto it like the score was tied in Game 7 of the playoffs, completing his hat trick with two seconds remaining. Really, the weirdest part was that there were still hats left in the crowd to throw on the ice.
  • Look, this was a bizarre game. I don’t really think there are any grand conclusions that can be drawn from it, whether about the Canucks, the Wild, or NHL referees. Maybe there’s something the Canucks can learn about keeping their feet moving to avoid stick penalties or keeping their cool under pressure when things get wonky. But things rarely get wonky in this particular way, so…I don’t know, man.
  • “That was the thing: on the bench, even when they went up 7-5, 8-5, we still felt pretty comfortable,” said Miller. “At least, our line I can speak on, we were in their zone every shift. I felt like we had one of those nights where we could tie it up 8-to-8. Such a weird game and games don’t happen like this very often, so I don’t want to look into it too much. We’ll learn from the bad but, honestly, I feel like we still did a lot of good things 5-on-5 today.”
  • That’s the thing: Miller’s not wrong. The Canucks were mostly great at 5-on-5 apart from their slip-ups after the four power play goals gave the Wild the lead. When Miller was on the ice at 5-on-5, the Canucks out-scored the Wild 4-to-1, which is the type of thing that typically leads to a win.
  • The one thing we can say from this game is that it makes Tuesday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche that much bigger. It was already going to be a high-stakes game against one of the best teams in the Western Conference, but now it’ll be about seeing how the Canucks respond to a 10-7 loss on the second half of back-to-backs and whether they can avoid losing three games in a row for the first time all season.