For the most part, the Vancouver Canucks took full advantage of a tired, beat-up New Jersey Devils squad, relentlessly applying pressure and winning game-two of their seven-game road trip 6-4 against the home team.
It wasn’t as easy as it should have been against an NJD club that refused to go away.
Then again, if not for Devils goalie Nico Daws, the outcome would have been determined much earlier.
Defenceman Carson Soucy played for Vancouver for the first time since November 12th.
It didn’t take long for the Canucks to jump on the scoreboard. Following an Elias Pettersson point shot, Brock Boeser fought off a Nico Hischier check in front of Daws and banged home a rebound for a 1-0 Vancouver lead at 2:44.
Unfortunately for Boeser, who thought he had his 25th goal of the season, it was ruled upon review that J.T. MIller interfered with Daws in the crease and the tally was waved off.
At 7:23 Devils D-man Jonas Siegenthaler went off for interference and the Canucks came close with the man advantage. They had three shots on the power play, with a first unit that featured the return of winger Andrei Kuzmenko, a healthy scratch for the Vancouver game on Thursday.
Daws fought everything off. The Devils were outshot 17-5 in the period. New Jersey’s lone chance came on a breakaway for Dawson Mercer, who was stoned by Canucks netminder Thatcher Demko.
The Canucks picked up where they left off with continuous pressure. It only took :41-seconds to light the lamp this time, and this time it counted.
Pettersson tipped home a Filip Hronek wrist shot from the point to make it 1-0 Vancouver.
The Canucks followed with sustained offensive zone time and it didn’t take long to cash in again.
At 3:33 Miller had the puck go in off his foot for a 2-0 Canucks lead. On the same play, Siegenthaler was injured blocking a shot and hobbled his way to the New Jersey dressing room.
At 4:37 Miller scored again. He ripped home a one-timer from the right circle on a cross-ice feed from Pettersson. The 5-on-3 rush opportunity came as a result of two Devils colliding at the other end of the ice, eliminating Tyler Toffoli and Mercer from the play.
It was a disastrous start to the 2nd period for a New Jersey club missing it’s leading scorer Jack Hughes and coming off a nasty affair the night before against the Blackhawks.
Another Miller, Colin, kept the Devils in the game. Off a clean offensive zone face-off win, he wired a slapper through traffic that beat Demko blocker side. The goal came at 6:43.
The chances mounted at both ends, mostly for Vancouver. Again, Daws kept the Devils in it.
Forward Erik Haula moved the home team within one with just 23-seconds remaining in the stanza. He ripped a shot top shelf, high glove on Demko.
Back in it? Tell that to Canucks winger Conor Garland. The waterbug rushed in after Vancouver controlled the center ice face-off and wrapped around on Daws to restore the two goal Vancouver lead. The goals came 12-seconds apart.
Through 40 minutes, shots-on-goal stood 32-16 in favour of the Canucks.
The period started like the prior two, with the Canucks getting a great scoring chance. This time Daws robbed Quinn Hughes with an open chance.
At 2:35 the game essentially ended. Or so it seemed. Boeser found Pettersson going to the net alone and he tucked a shot five-hole to give Vancouver a three-goal cushion at 5-2.
Colin Miller scored his second goal of the season and his second as a Devil with a wrister to the blocker side at 11:07. His open chance came from a beautiful backhand saucer pass from Chris Tierney on the left wing boards.
1:47 later, New Jersey D-man Brendan Smith stepped into a slapper and wired it over Demko’s shoulder to cut the lead to one.
The faithful patrons on hand were fully back on board.
They tried to rally the Devils, only to see a late power play opportunity and the pulled goalie situation fall short. Dakota Joshua, who had taken the penalty, buried an empty netter for his 10th goal of the season.
Shots on goal finished 42-25 in favour of Canucks. Power plays: Vancouver 0-for-1, New Jersey 0-for-2.
Canucks 3 Stars:
1) J.T. Miller – Two goals and an assist in 18:29 of ice time. Plus-5. Two shots-on-goal.
2) Elias Pettersson – Two goals and an assist in 19:51 of ice time. Plus-4. Four shots-on-goal.
3) Conor Garland – His goal was the play of the night and appeared to be the back breaker. 3 shots on goal in 13:02.