Wild lean on playoff experience vs. Canucks

NHL Hockey
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The Vancouver Canucks didn’t get quite the result they wanted out of their first playoff game in five years.

The Canucks last saw postseason action in 2015 when the Calgary Flames eliminated them from the Western Conference quarterfinals in six games of a best-of-seven series.

Five years later, they’re shaking off the playoff rust but already down one game to the Minnesota Wild, losing 3-0 Sunday in the opener of a best-of-five qualifying series. Game 2 is set for Tuesday in Edmonton.

“That’s not the start we wanted,” said Jacob Markstrom, who made 28 saves for the Canucks. “And me personally, not the start as well, letting in those two goals. I felt good. but those two goals, obviously, you want them back. Their goalie didn’t do any mistakes tonight and I did two, so we lost the game.”

The Canucks failed to produce much offensively to support Markstrom, playing his first postseason NHL game in a career that launched with the Florida Panthers in 2011.

Vancouver’s top six forwards — Bo Horvat, Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, J.T. Miller, Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli — combined for five shots on goal.

“They played good defense today,” Pettersson said of the Wild. “They’re an older team, so they have experience. I think it was what I expected — high-intense game, a lot of hits and both teams were battling. Both teams want to win.”

Only three players remain from the roster that last played a postseason game for the Canucks: Horvat, Chris Tanev and Alexander Edler. The Wild, on the other hand, has missed the playoffs only once — in 2019 — since sitting at home after the 2011-12 season. Their core players, led by forwards Zach Parise and Eric Staal and defensemen Ryan Suter and Matt Dumba, are playoff veterans.

“It’s a learning process,” Canucks coach Travis Green said. “You can talk about playoff hockey, but until you play it, it’s not easy to get to the net. It’s not easy to score goals.”

Green admitted, however, the Canucks need their top guys to dig deeper for Game 2.

“We need those guys to produce more,” he said. “It’s no secret that those two lines, we’d like to get some production out of them.”

The Wild got their goal production from the blue line on Sunday. Defenseman Jared Spurgeon scored twice and added an assist. Kevin Fiala had the Wild’s first goal, and Staal contributed two assists.

“The team did an unbelievable job today to stay disciplined, to stay with each other, to support each other,” Fiala said. “We won as a team.”

Wild goalie Alex Stalock posted 28 saves for the first playoff victory of his career. It was only his fifth appearance and second start in an NHL playoff game.

“Most important game of the season to date,” he said. “Important to win right now. … I think we’re happy with that as a group.”

The Wild plan to keep relying heavily on their playoff experience, even though the franchise has won just four playoff rounds in 18 previous years of existence.

“I think as a group, we have a lot of experience,” Spurgeon said. “Playoff hockey is a different beast than regular season, and it’s not always fancy. We did a good job of getting pucks deep and sort of grinding out their D and when they did get it, our forwards did a great job coming back to let us stay up and have great gaps.”

–Field Level Media

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