Wild 4, Canucks 3 (SO): Toffoli learns in his debut to get Miller the puck
For once, the cameras didn't encircle Bo Horvat.
He strolled into the locker-room with a wide grin as the media surrounded Tyler Toffoli following his first practice Tuesday and then they went looking again for the new Vancouver Canucks winger on Wednesday.
"Welcome to a Canadian market," chuckled the captain.
Toffoli was front page news when the former Los Angeles Kings winger was acquired Monday in a package deal. He was also fodder for the talk-show circuit, podcasts and endless blogs debating whether general manager Jim Benning had hit a home run or struck out by giving up too much.
Welcome to Vancouver, indeed.
For his part, Toffoli tried to find his legs and his game on a line with Elias Pettersson and J.T. Miller in a see-saw struggle with the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday. He had three shots and five attempts in regulation and had a glorious chance on a 2-on-1 in overtime.
He also quickly learned that Miller likes to talk a lot and wants the puck a lot. He must have heard something because his shot early in the third period was perfectly re-directed in the slot by Miller for his career-high 23rd goal to make it 2-2.
Miller came right back and his rocket of a wrist shot found the glove side on Devan Dubnyk for what looked like the winning goal. But when an sweeping Alex Galchenyuk centring attempt went off Troy Stecher at the side of the net with 4:45 remaining in regulation time, the drama only heightened.
Here's what else we learned as the issue was finally settled in a shootout. Pettersson and Miller tallied before Alex Galchenyuk scored the winner in the fifth round to provide the Wild with a 4-3 victory:
When the other skate drops
Jacob Markstrom has been the club's most valuable player. He should even merit Vezina Trophy consideration, he has been that good this season - especially in stopping high-percentage scoring chances.
The more shots he faces, the better he plays. He has seven wins in eight games where he has seen at least 40 shots.
On Wednesday, the first shot got by him and so did the 10th. The Wild opened scoring when Jordie Benn was caught in the neutral zone and Kevin Fiala moved into the high slot on a 2-on-1 and ripped a wrister that went off Markstrom's glove and post and in.
The second goal came after the Canucks were pinned in their zone and gassed. A slow line change allowed the Wild to quickly enter the O-zone and Luke Kunin went wide and his centring effort struck Markstrom and somehow trickled between his pads. But his biggest save was off Fiala in overtime.
The Canucks finally gave Markstrom some run support because they had ample opportunity to score.
Miller took a stretch pass and was stopped on a first-period breakaway. Pettersson then fanned on a bouncing puck in his sweet shooting spot at the dot in the same frame. And Loui Eriksson shot wide when looking at an open net. Miller then rang a shot off the post early in the third period before finally scoring.
Hey, thanks a lot, Motte
Tyler Motte returned after missing eight games with a shoulder injury.
His immediate impact was to bring speed and grit to a fourth-line alignment with Jay Beagle and Brandon Sutter - especially in shutdown roles. But what was missing when he was missing was a pursuit element that was dragging down the once-reliable penalty kill.
In Motte's absence, the unit went 20-for-27 with a 73.9 efficiency, which is below its 80.2 overall percentage entering Wednesday - which only ranks 16th. And at home the Canucks were 23rd, so if they expect to advance to the playoffs they have to be much better.
Motte was paired with Beagle in one penalty kill unit while Sutter worked the other with Eriksson.
The Canucks easily killed two Wild power plays, but Motte would also play a pivotal role when the Canucks finally got to Dubnyk. Motte took a heavy hit along the boards on the forecheck to spring Quinn Hughes and Beagle on a 2-on-1 break.
Instead of shooting, Hughes fed a perfect cross-ice pass to Beagle for the tap-in at 1:31 of the second period to erase a 1-0 deficit.
Reading between trade lines
Jim Benning may not be done.
The Canucks general manager will see if something make sense before the Monday trade deadline. And something may give. Or not.
Long associated with a level of interest in unrestricted free-agent winger Wayne Simmonds - and aware that Micheal Ferland being shut down for the season with recurring concussion-like symptoms may leave his club lacking bite and stiffness - a move is not out of the question. But who and at what price?
Simmonds, 31, has but seven goals with the New Jersey Devils on an expiring US$5 million cap hit. He was a disaster as a rental for the Nashville Predators last spring - one goal in 17 games - and seems far removed from 24 goals in 2017-18. He hasn't scored a playoff goal since 2013.
"We could be done, but if something makes sense to fill the needs, or the hole we think we have, we'll look to do that within reason," said Benning.
Without a first- or second-round pick to dangle, he's obviously loathe to part with any more picks and will try to recoup one before the draft with moveable assets.
"With some of our young players, if we think we have enough depth at that position, we may look to do something," said Benning.
He does have a lot of defencemen in the system.[email protected]
Saturday Boston Bruins vs. Vancouver Canucks twitter.com/benkuzma Is there more to this story? We'd like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email [email protected]
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