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Canucks claw out 5-4 comeback win over Oilers in Game 1

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The Vancouver Canucks have been talking about resilience for months.

On Wednesday, the team once again showed how the word has come to form part of its identity as Vancouver battled back from a three-goal deficit to edge the Edmonton Oilers 5-4 in Game 1 of their second-round playoff series.

"The belief is always there," said Canucks winger Dakota Joshua. "Just to know that you gotta keep playing to the end, anything can happen."

Vancouver hasn't always had the ability to stay composed and mount a dramatic comeback in pressure-packed situations, noted head coach Rick Tocchet.

"Maybe four or five months ago, or maybe last year, you might have seen some frustration, some laziness or when something frustrated us, we take a bad penalty," he said.

"If you look at it, when they’re 4-1, I thought we still stayed disciplined. We weren’t pinching, we weren’t selling the farm. And I think that's maturity of the year, how we’ve kind of built our resolve.”

Joshua had a goal and two assists, Nikita Zadorov and Elias Lindholm contributed one of each, and J.T. Miller and Conor Garland also found the back of the net for Vancouver. Carson Soucy registered a pair of assists.

The Oilers took a 4-2 lead into the final frame, thanks to two goals from Zach Hyman, and one each from Mattias Ekholm and Cody Ceci. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Leon Draisaitl both had two assists.

"They’re a good team and they were doing everything they could to come back and we were doing everything we could to hold on to the lead. That happens in the playoffs, you try to hold on to lead and sometimes you’re maybe a little too passive," said Oilers captain Connor McDavid, who was limited to an assist Wednesday.

"I thought we were doing a good job of holding on to the lead, but they find a way to get two and find a way to get a third to win."

The Canucks got 13 saves from rookie goalie Arturs Silovs and Stuart Skinner stopped 19 of 24 shots for the Oilers.

Edmonton was coming off of six days rest after ousting the L.A. Kings in a five-game, first-round series. Vancouver eliminated the Nashville Predators in Game 6 on Friday.

An early penalty proved costly for the Canucks. Vancouver was called for too many men just 40 seconds into the game and Edmonton's potent power play got to work.

Nugent-Hopkins sent Hyman a pass across the top of the crease and the winger unleashed a one-timer from a sharp angle, tucking the puck in under the crossbar for his eighth goal of the post-season at 2:11.

Edmonton was 1 for 1 on the power play and Vancouver went 0 for 3.

The Oilers went up 4-1 midway through the second when Hyman put away his league-leading ninth goal of the post-season.

Lindholm cut the deficit to 4-2 before the end of the period, and a stretch of four-on-four hockey in the final frame saw the Canucks come within a single goal.

Brock Boeser sent a pass to Miller at the goal line and the puck bounced off Miller's stick, then in over Skinner's glove at 8:38. The goal — Miller's second of the playoffs — prompted enthusiastic chants of "J-T Mill-er!" throughout Rogers Arena.

Zadorov buried his third of the post-season 13:47 into the third with a long shot into the top corner that knotted the score at 4-4.

“Everybody wants to be in that moment," Garland said. "We understand when you have to execute and when you dig a hole like that, you got to execute if you want to get back in the game. And I think that was the biggest thing in the third, that we just executed and buried our chances."

The crowd erupted 39 seconds later when Garland picked off a pass at centre ice and went one-on-one with Darnell Nurse. The winger fired a shot past Skinner from the bottom of the faceoff circle to put Vancouver up 5-4.

“It’s a resilient group," Tocchet said of his team. "Sometimes we’re not pretty. Sometimes things happen. But I just feel like it’s a real close group. And this is when you need a close group, these situations."

"And I thought everyone had something to contribute tonight. There were no passengers.” 

INS AND OUTS

Edmonton forward Adam Henrique missed Game 1 with an ankle injury. Connor Brown took his spot in the lineup, making his first appearance of the post-season.

YOUNG GUNS

This is the first time the Canucks and Oilers have met in the playoffs since 1992. Defencemen Tyler Myers and Ian Cole, as well as goalie Casey DeSmith are the only players on Vancouver's current roster who were born before that series.

Edmonton has eight players (Henrique, Derek Ryan, Mattias Ekholm, Calvin Pickard, Sam Gagner, Corey Perry and Evander Kane) who were alive at the time.

UP NEXT

Game 2 is set for Friday in Vancouver. The series moves to Edmonton for Games 3 and 4 on Sunday and Tuesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 8, 2024.  

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