Vancouver Canucks defenceman Derrick Pouliot (5) knocks Edmonton Oilers centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) to the ice through the first interval.

JONATHAN HAYWARD / THE CANADIAN PRESS

There’s a notion the Vancouver Canucks haven’t performed a significant post-New Years’ recreation for the reason that first Harper administration.

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This isn’t true. It simply feels that means.

In every of the final two years of Willie Desjardins’ reign, for instance, the Canucks had been three video games over .500 in late January earlier than they plunged off the face of the earth. This makes their 28th- and 29th-place finishes all of the extra spectacular.

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Within the Torts’ tire hearth season they had been additionally 10 video games over .500 on Jan. 26. So the territory isn’t unchartered.

However that is additionally true. There was one thing about Wednesday evening’s contest with the Edmonton Oilers which felt just like the Canucks’ most vital regular-season recreation in 4 years. Possibly this recreation, and the six-game home-stand which surrounds it, isn’t precisely a referendum on the rebuild and this wasn’t precisely a battle of the titans, nevertheless it was important on many ranges.

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Simply ask Travis Inexperienced.

“That is about as significant because it will get,” the Canucks’ head coach stated prematurely of Wednesday’s assembly with Connor McDavid’s Travelling All-Stars. “It’s an thrilling recreation. You need your gamers to be put into video games that matter. We talked about that as we speak. It is a recreation the place you wish to play your greatest.”

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OK perhaps it wasn’t their greatest. However it nonetheless served a bigger function.

In an affair that had all of the earmarks of a playoff contest, two actually common groups combating for relevance connected in a fistfight at The Rog. Alex Chiasson ended a five-round shootout, giving the Oilers a 3-2 win after a wild-west extra time, a last minute wherein Jake Virtanen nearly bought the ending proper for the Canucks and 59 minutes of gruelling, smash-mouth hockey.


Goalie Mikko Koskinen of the Edmonton Oilers reaches to try to cowl up the puck.

Wealthy Lam /

Getty Pictures

It was’t at all times fairly nevertheless it was passionate and it uncovered one thing in each groups. For the Canucks, the trick will likely be enjoying that recreation repeatedly for the following 2 1/2 months and if that doesn’t get them into the playoffs, it is going to nonetheless be invaluable of their improvement.

“It’s the sort of video games each participant needs to be part of,” stated Jay Beagle, who noticed a variety of McDavid on this evening and dealt with himself admirably. “I really like these sorts of video games and also you like to have these match-ups. It’s what you play for. You play for playoff hockey and the playoff ambiance. That was tonight.”

And it was the sort of evening the place a participant like Beagle takes a lead function.

The Canucks began slowly, gifting a shorthanded aim to famous sniper Jujhar Khaira within the first, then falling behind 2-1 on a little bit of McDavid magic. However, over the ultimate 40 minutes and OT, the house aspect might need been the higher aspect and might need deserved a greater destiny.


Vancouver Canucks defenceman Derrick Pouliot (5) fights for management of the puck with Edmonton Oilers proper wing Zack Kassian.

JONATHAN HAYWARD /

THE CANADIAN PRESS

Ben Hutton had the go-ahead aim referred to as again within the second when the Oilers received an offside problem. Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen, who allowed two objectives on the primary seven Canucks’ pictures earlier than shutting the door, made a glove save off Bo Horvat, then turned away Virtanen within the last minute. McDavid and Leon Draisaitl had been additionally shut down after McDavid’s first-period aim.

After which there was the extra time.

The celebration began with Jacob Markstrom closing the door on Kris Russell, adopted by Brandon Sutter hitting Darnell Nurse on the skate whereas observing an open web, adopted by Markstrom stopping Leon Draistaitl on a breakaway following Koskinen stopping Horvat once more. I imply, in case you sneezed you missed one thing particular.

“An inch away,” Sutter stated of his extra time likelihood.

“It’s nerve-racking if you’re watching,” continued the Canucks’ centre. “Once you’re enjoying you’re simply worrying about your subsequent shift. That’s enjoyable hockey. It’s enjoyable to play. They nailed it after they went to this format.”

OK, to reiterate the Canucks misplaced some extent on this recreation they usually’ll be scratching and clawing for all the things they’ll get from now till mid-April. However, given this stage of their improvement, it nonetheless means one thing to be in a recreation like this, the place each play issues, the place there’s a combat for each sq. inch of ice. They’re going through 34 extra video games like this from now till the tip of the season and there will likely be an schooling in these video games for the younger gamers like Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser, for gamers who’re making an attempt to ascertain themselves like Virtanen and Ben Hutton and even for Inexperienced.

“We’ve talked about it,” Inexperienced stated. “We had some objectives this 12 months. We wished to be quicker. We wished to be tougher to play towards. We wished to develop younger gamers and we wished to play significant video games within the second half.”

They’ve bought that now with much more to come back.

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