Canucks try to stave off elimination against Vegas — again

NHL Hockey

Forward Reilly Smith says the Vegas Golden Knights have one goal as they head into Thursday night’s Game 6 of their Stanley Cup Western Conference semifinal series with the Vancouver Canucks in Edmonton.

“We’re going to come into tomorrow’s game just to try to step on their necks and end this,” Smith said.

The Golden Knights lead the best-of-seven series, 3-2, but come in off a frustrating 2-1 loss on Tuesday night. Vancouver goalie Thatcher Demko, subbing for injured starter Jacob Markstrom, stopped 42 shots in his NHL postseason debut.

Vegas finished with a huge 43-17 edge in shots on goal but still couldn’t find a way to put the Canucks away as Elias Pettersson snapped a 1-1 tie in the third period when he redirected a Brock Boeser shot past Robin Lehner.

“You can’t overreact,” Golden Knights coach Peter DeBoer said. “You got two good teams going at it, and we’ve got a chance to win this in six (games).

“(Demko) was really good. They were opportunistic. We’ve got to make it harder on them.”

Demko, a 24-year-old San Diego native who became the first California-born goalie to win a game in the Stanley Cup playoffs, was making his first start since March 10 as Markstrom, who has faced a league-high 491 shots in 14 postseason games and was listed as unfit with an undisclosed injury, cheered on from the stands.

Now the question is whether Demko, the former Boston College star, a second-round pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, will be back in the net for Game 6. Or will Markstrom, the team’s MVP rumored to be battling a groin injury, return? And if the Canucks win, who comes back 24 hours later to start Game 7?

“You don’t know what the circumstances are going to be, but it’s good to get a game under my belt and, if I do get back in, I’ll have a bit of a comfort level there,” Demko said. “I got some work tonight, and I’ll do some video to clean things up and try to do it again — if I get the call.”

“I don’t think anyone was surprised at how well he did, to be honest,” said Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes, who picked up his 13th assist, of Demko. “We know how good he is. I think we all have a lot of confidence and faith in him.”

Vegas, which eliminated the Chicago Blackhawks in five games in the first round, failed to put DeBoer’s San Jose Sharks away last year after building a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven first round series. That included losing at home in double overtime in Game 6, 2-1, despite outshooting the Sharks, 59-29, as Martin Jones stopped 58 shots. Vegas then blew a 3-0 lead midway through the third period of Game 7 and lost, 5-4, in overtime to be eliminated.

“I don’t think it will be difficult,” Smith said of the Golden Knights putting Tuesday’s loss behind them. “We’re all professionals. I think we played a pretty good game last night. We did probably enough to win. Sometimes it doesn’t happen the way you want it to.”

The Canucks, meanwhile, are just happy to live another day.

“You don’t always win pretty in the playoffs,” said Vancouver coach Travis Green. “Sometimes you don’t play your best and you find a way to win. I’m proud of them and we’ll try and do it again (Thursday).”

–Field Level Media

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