Sharks 5 Canucks 4 (OT): Labanc cashes in to spoil Canucks’ comeback

 

 
 
 
 
Reid Boucher of the Vancouver Canucks and Daniel O'Regan of San Jose battle for a loose puck behind the Sharks' net Thursday night in NHL action at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif.
 
 

Reid Boucher of the Vancouver Canucks and Daniel O'Regan of San Jose battle for a loose puck behind the Sharks' net Thursday night in NHL action at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif.

Photograph by: Ezra Shaw, The Province

SAN JOSE, Calif. — “Safe is death.”

Remember that beauty? A classic John Tortorella clip-and-save from his reign of error.

You can say this much about that former Canucks’ coach and this Vancouver club — never dull. Whether battling injuries, begging for better goaltending and nursing penalty kill problems in the absence of Bo Horvat and Brandon Sutter, these Canucks refuse to crawl into a hole.

No trapping. No chip-and-chase and hope for the best. They push the pace in a high-risk, high-reward system and the results are either alarming or amazing.

“We have to be committed to skating,” stressed Canucks’ coach Travis Green. “That will create a lot of chances.”

And it did.

For the second consecutive visit to The Shark Tank, the Canucks put up at least 40 shots. They also gave up three power-play goals, took lazy hooking, tripping and holding-the-stick minors.

But they never gave up in rallying from a 3-1 deficit before Kevin Labanc of San Jose snapped a 4-4 draw at 1:53 of overtime for a 5-4 NHL victory.

Here’s what we learned:

The beauty of committing to an entertaining style of play — and having a coach willing to live with mistakes — has allowed Jake Virtanen to emerge from a cloud of self-doubt and methodically grow his game.

Virtanen could always skate. He could always shoot. But he couldn’t always process the game and doing something positive on every shift — and not becoming a liability — has been a work in progress.

Class has been in session all season. On Thursday, Virtanen got some good grades.

He figured in the opening goal on an impressive bull rush. Just as he was a about to circle the net, he feathered a cheeky backhand pass through the legs of goalie Aaron Dell that found a pinching Erik Gudbranson. His shot went off Brendan Gaunce for his second goal in 97 career games.

Virtanen then did his best Horvat impression. He went end-to-end. He blew out of his own zone and blew past defenceman Tim Heed before showing a one-handed effort under Dell for his fifth goal of the season. All have come on the road.

It was looking like one of those rare nights for Brock Boeser.

He had one shot attempt in the first period, a power-play effort that sailed way over the net. In six minutes of power-play time, he logged but 2:49 and the Sharks did a good job clogging up passing lanes.

The rookie hasn’t gone more than two games without a point and he made another point off his multi-dimensional game Thursday.

When Alex Biega drove the net and had his jam job stopped, it was Boeser who calmly found the spot before whipping a wicked backhander up top to make it 3-3 for his 19th goal and the rookie scoring lead.

You can’t teach that stuff.

Would Ben Hutton have made a difference Thursday? Hard to say. Probably not. The way the Sharks were beating a path to the goal, he probably would have had containment issues.

Simply stated, Hutton has lost his confidence.

He was minus-3 against Calgary on Sunday and a healthy scratch Tuesday and Thursday. Biega has taken his spot and doesn’t look like he’s going to give it up after his first two-point game of his career Thursday.

Hutton is now seeing the game from a distance. Is that good?

“For sure, you can gain something when you don’t play,” said Green. “The obvious one is when you’re not playing good enough. With Hutton, it’s a fine line. The fact he doesn’t have the points — or the points he’s used to getting — sometimes that will affect a player over the long haul.

“That has creeped into his mind a little bit. When he competes hard and is closing in his own zone and eliminating bodies, his whole game is strong.”

In six games since being acquired from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for Jordan Subban, Nic Dowd has become a centre of attention for all the wrong reasons.

He has taken six minors and been in the box for five power-play goals against. He is also pointless.

Dowd took a lazy hooking minor on Brent Burns in the opening period and a dozen seconds later, Joe Thornton moved into a tie with Doug Gilmour for 18th on the NHL all-time points list (1,414) when he whipped a cross-ice feed past Jacob Markstrom who had dropped to his knees.

Thornton’s second goal broke the Gilmour tie and then he added another helper when Dowd took a faceoff violation minor to give the Sharks a 5-on-3 advantage.

bkuzma@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/benkuzma

NEXT GAME

Saturday

St. Louis Blues vs. Vancouver Canucks

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

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Reid Boucher of the Vancouver Canucks and Daniel O'Regan of San Jose battle for a loose puck behind the Sharks' net Thursday night in NHL action at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif.
 

Reid Boucher of the Vancouver Canucks and Daniel O'Regan of San Jose battle for a loose puck behind the Sharks' net Thursday night in NHL action at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif.

Photograph by: Ezra Shaw, The Province

 
Reid Boucher of the Vancouver Canucks and Daniel O'Regan of San Jose battle for a loose puck behind the Sharks' net Thursday night in NHL action at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif.
Jake Virtanen of the Vancouver Canucks scores on Sharks' goalie Aaron Dell during the second period of Thursday's NHL game in San Jose, Calif.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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