Battered, bruised and playing on the second night of a back-to-back, it would have been understandable if the youthful Vancouver Canucks gave up ground in their surprising playoff push.
Instead, the Canucks found a way to beat the Los Angeles Kings.
Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser scored in a shootout after Adam Gaudette tied it up with 1:38 remaining in the third period to give the Canucks a 4-3 win over the Kings on Thursday night.
“I was worried that we’d be emotionally maybe a little low today just because we put a lot on the table last night,” Canucks coach Travis Green said, referencing the 1-0 loss at Anaheim on Wednesday.
“Not just emotionally. Physically it was a tough game, and to win a game like that can lift a team.”
Playing without defenceman Christopher Tanev and forward Jake Virtanen because of injuries sustained against the Ducks, the Canucks got typical contributions from Pettersson and Boeser, who each scored in regulation.
But it was Gaudette who grabbed the loose puck and scored on a wrist shot from the left circle to ensure the Canucks earned at least one point, playing as the extra attacker in a role that might have gone to a healthy Virtanen under normal circumstances.
“It’s really nice for Adam to get rewarded and that’s what happened,” said goalie Jacob Markstrom, who never saw the tying goal as he was still getting settled on the bench. “Ice time is up for grabs and he’s out there for 6-on-5 and scores a huge goal for us. It was a team comeback.”
Markstrom made 35 saves through overtime, before allowing a shootout goal to Ilya Kovalchuk and then stopping Anze Kopitar and Adrian Kempe as the Canucks ended their four-game road losing streak.
Alec Martinez had a goal and an assist for the Kings, who had not played at home since Jan. 21 because of the All-Star Game, bye week and a six-game road trip while Staples Center hosted the Grammys. Jonathan Quick made 24 saves.
Martinez had put the Kings ahead 10:59 into the third period when Markstrom was unable to stop the wobbly shot from the blue line through traffic.
The Canucks were able to respond in the pressure of the moment, showing the growth Green believes can only come from being in the playoff chase. Vancouver moved into a tie with Minnesota for the second wild-card in the Western Conference.
“Mindset is different when you are out of it,” Green said. “You can still play in those games at this time of year, but if there’s not something on the line then you don’t feel pressure and it’s not the same thing. For our young guys to go through this, it means a lot. We hope we make it. We hope we’re there at the end. But we’re learning as we go.”
For the Kings, they earned a point for the fifth time in six games but remain last in the Western Conference and seven points behind the Canucks and Wild.
“I think we’ve just got to learn from this stuff,” Martinez said. “I think we’ve been practicing better as of late and that’s translated to games, but like I said we need points right now.”