Thatcher Demko made 43 saves in his first ever NHL playoff start, and the Vancouver Canucks kept their season alive with a 2-1 win over the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday in Edmonton.
Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson scored for Vancouver, which cut the Golden Knights’ lead to 3-2 in the best-of-seven second-round series. Game 6 goes Thursday.
Demko got the nod after Jacob Markstrom, the Canucks’ regular starter, was deemed unable to play and didn’t dress. Demko battled a fierce Vegas attack all night long and an avalanche of shots: redirects, one-timers, odd-man rushes and goalmouth scrambles.
Pettersson broke a 1-1 tie early in the third period for the winner, redirecting a Boeser wrist shot from the blue-line past Vegas goalie Robin Lehner. It’s his seventh goal of the playoffs.
Shea Theodore, with his fifth goal of the playoffs, replied for Vegas while Lehner made 16 saves in the loss and is now 7-3 in the post-season.
The Golden Knights were outshooting Vancouver 24-7 late in the second period when Theodore broke the ice, dipsy-doodling around two Canucks, walking into the slot untouched and firing a shot high glove-side and in.
Vancouver responded just 24 seconds later. Boeser, playing give-and-go with J.T. Miller on a 2-on-1, redirected a Miller pass on the backhand past Lehner. It was just the Canucks’ eighth shot on net.
The goal was no doubt sweet relief for Boeser. He had been facing criticism as a top-six forward getting top-six minutes but, heading into Tuesday, racking up only 20 shots on net and three goals in the post-season.
🙌 DEMKO APPRECIATION TWEET 🙌 pic.twitter.com/ZF8oxsVTi3
— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) September 2, 2020
It was Demko’s first start in almost six months. His last start was March 10, two days before the NHL’s regular season was halted, and ultimately cancelled, due to COVID-19.
Prior to Tuesday, the 24-year-old had seen 8:26 of playoff action in 2020, mopping up for Markstrom in the third period of a 5-0 Vegas blowout in Game 1.
Drafted by Vancouver in the second round in 2014, Demko served as the backup to Markstrom in the regular season, making 25 starts and compiling a 13-10-2 record (3.06 goals-against average, .905 save percentage).
Markstrom, in his first NHL playoffs, has been the workhorse for Vancouver, starting 14 games in 29 days, with an 8-6 record, stopping 451 shots (2.85 GAA, .919 save percentage) and recording his first playoff shutout by beating the Minnesota Wild 3-0.
He has often kept Vancouver in games, facing more than 30 shots a night. In 15 playoff games, the Canucks have been outshot by their opponent 13 times (they registered more shots twice in the Minnesota series).
Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press