Canucks 4 Blackhawks 2: Gaunce seals second straight win for Canucks

 

 
 
 
 
Brendan Gaunce is congratulated by teammates after scoring one of his two goals against the Blackhawks on Thursday night.
 
 

Brendan Gaunce is congratulated by teammates after scoring one of his two goals against the Blackhawks on Thursday night.

Photograph by: Jeff Vinnick, The Province

The rivalry may be dead, the Canucks are not.

At least, not this week.

The Canucks won their second consecutive NHL game, taking out the Chicago Blackhawks in a 4-2 decision Thursday at Rogers Arena.

This is what we learned:

In one stretch, when he was going 80-odd games without a goal, you wondered if Gaunce would ever score.

Even the goals he got were flukes. One went off his skate, another he scored on a broken stick. He started Thursday with three career goals. He ended the game with five.

Neither of his goals was lucky. The first was a legitimate shot. On a 2-on-1, he passed on a chance to pass to an open Bo Horvat.

He shot and scored, going five hole.

He didn’t stop there. Gaunce sealed the game, redirecting a puck into the net on the rush late in the third, sealing the victory for the Canucks.

It was as surprising a performance as there has been all season for the Canucks. If Gaunce can score two goals in one game, anything is possible.

If ever a third assist should have been awarded, it should have been on the Canucks’ second goal.

Boeser was ridiculous, winning a puck battle and then launching a pass to Alex Edler at the point, as he was laid out, ending up belly first on the ice.

Edler turned the puck to Troy Stecher and his shot was tipped in.

But as good as that was, Boeser made a mistake on Chicago’s second goal late in the third.

With time and space, more than he thought, he tried to clear a puck off the glass and out.

His team was pinned, the pressure was on, and when he ended up with the puck he had a chance to get his team out of it. His clearing attempt was picked off. Moments later, the puck was in the net.

After missing seven weeks, there were reasonable questions about what kind of performance Horvat would be able to offer his team.

Since returning from injury, he continues to blow all expectations out of the water.

He scored again Thursday, tipping in a Stecher shot, giving him two goals and two assists in his past four games.

Sometimes, games go by and you don’t notice him. Make that weeks.

Virtanen struggles with consistency, but when he makes it work it can be impressive.

The Canucks’ third goal against Chicago was entirely a Virtanen production.

He ripped the puck from Jordan Oesterle behind the net and then Tommy Wingels in front of it.

He then whirled and got a puck directly on net which was tipped in. It’s plays like this which make you believe in him again as an up-and-coming prospect.

Team toughness has provided some drama recently for the Canucks.

Do they have enough? Do they need to re-sign Erik Gudbranson if they don’t?

There have been games where it’s looked like this was the softest team in the NHL and not by a little. This wasn’t one of those games.

Sven Baertschi, yes that Sven Baertschi, trucked Anthony Duclair early in the game, leaving the Hawks forward pancaked on the ice.

Virtanen went after Duncan Keith and hit him along the boards. It was as “hard to play against” as the Canucks have been all season.

A Canucks veteran making millions has to be scratched at some point.

No?

The Canucks’ defence is as healthy as it’s been at any point this season. The team has eight blue-liners who believe they should be playing.

Like every coach before him, Travis Green calls this a good problem to have. Sure, as long as you’re not the player being a healthy scratch.

Alex Biega sat Thursday, and given status and salary, it’s a no-brainer. After that, things get interesting. Ben Hutton sat again.

The coach has been reluctant to sit his big-money veterans, and has consistently fallen back on scratching Hutton and Derrick Pouliot.

The thing is, both have been better this season than Michael Del Zotto.

It was Del Zotto who failed to track Nick Schmaltz on the game’s opening goal, allowing the Hawks’ forward to walk in.

How long before Del Zotto is scratched? We wait.

jbotchford@postmedia.com

twitter.com/botchford

NEXT GAME

Saturday

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Vancouver Canucks

7 p.m., Rogers Arena, CBC, SNET 650 AM

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Brendan Gaunce is congratulated by teammates after scoring one of his two goals against the Blackhawks on Thursday night.
 

Brendan Gaunce is congratulated by teammates after scoring one of his two goals against the Blackhawks on Thursday night.

Photograph by: Jeff Vinnick, The Province

 
Brendan Gaunce is congratulated by teammates after scoring one of his two goals against the Blackhawks on Thursday night.
Brendan Gaunce is congratulated by Bo Horvat after scoring one of his two goals against the Blackhawks.
Brandon Saad attempts to check Brock Boeser.
Bo Horvat celebrates his goal against the Blackhawks.
Daniel Sedin celebrates his goal with Henrik Sedin after a crafty play by Jake Virtanen.
Sam Gagner lays a thunderous hit on Tomas Jurco.
Derrick Pouliot bounces off Duncan Keith in the first period.
Vancouver Canucks' Bo Horvat, centre, and Brendan Gaunce, right, celebrate Gaunce's goal against the Chicago Blackhawks as referee Dave Jackson looks on during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, B.C., on Thursday February 1, 2018.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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