The Vancouver Canucks and Minnesota Wild each have tasted victory through the first two games of their best-of-five Western Conference qualifying series.
Both sides will try to take control of the series when they meet for Game 3 on Thursday afternoon in Edmonton.
The Wild won the series opener 3-0 on Sunday. The Canucks bounced back with a 4-3 win on Tuesday, though they saw their forward lines further thinned by injuries.
Already without right wing Tyler Toffoli at the start of Game 2, the Canucks also lost left wings Micheal Ferland and Antoine Roussel during the game. Ferland left the bench in the second period for unspecified reasons, and Roussel was hit in the face by a teammate’s shot in the third.
On the bright side, the absences opened the door for right wing Brock Boeser to move up to the top line and rejoin center Elias Pettersson, his linemate for much of last season, and J.T. Miller.
Boeser and Miller each scored goals and Pettersson drew three penalties.
“It’s unfortunate with Toff, but I’m excited to get back out there with those guys,” Boeser told reporters afterward.
Toffoli’s absence opened the door for Jake Virtanen to enter the lineup after he was a healthy scratch in Game 1.
Zack MacEwen likely would draw into the lineup for Game 3 if either Ferland or Roussel can’t play.
The Wild also lost right wing Ryan Hartman to an unspecified injury. He had to be helped off the ice in the third period after getting pushed by Pettersson and then hitting his head on the ice.
That led to a brief staredown by both teams after the final whistle sounded.
“It just shows both teams aren’t taking any crap from each other,” said Vancouver forward Tanner Pearson, who scored 24 seconds into Game 2. “There’s a lot of pushback, a lot of stuff between the whistles, but at this time of year, guys are trying to do everything they can to win. If that means getting under a guy’s skin, guys are going to do that.”
Minnesota forward Kevin Fiala scored two goals in the final 2 1/2 minutes of Game 2 to pull the Wild within a goal. It was a late spark the Wild hope will carry over to Thursday.
“We’d like to take all the positives we can,” said Minnesota forward Luke Kunin, whose short-handed goal tied the score 1-1 heading into the first intermission of Game 2. “(Fiala) getting on the board, a couple of late goals with the goalie pulled. We just got to regroup. We know what we got to do to be better and have success.”
Wild forward Zach Parise, who will appear in his 100th NHL playoff game on Thursday, is familiar with the ups and downs of the postseason.
“You go from feeling great after Game 1, a pretty complete game by us, and all of a sudden, you come back and now it’s 1-1,” he said. “Those are the roller coasters of the playoffs. Both teams regroup. See what’s been working, where we can get better.”
–Field Level Media