VANCOUVER (CP) — Jacob Markstrom spent a little longer than usual peeling off his equipment Saturday night.
After a stellar performance — one that almost earned him the first shutout of his NHL career — the Vancouver Canucks goalie was well within his right to take some extra time to decompress.
Markstrom made 35 saves as Vancouver survived a hellacious Toronto onslaught over the final two periods to down the Maple Leafs 2-1.
“He won the game for us,” said Canucks forward Daniel Sedin. ”The last 40 minutes, it was all Toronto.”
Markstrom actually had the Leafs’ number for more than 57 minutes before James van Riemsdyk finally got one past him on a tip off a point shot with 2:52 left in the third.
The hulking Swede, who has now gone 114 career starts without blanking an opponent, jokingly pretended to ignore questions about the streak, but eventually came around.
“I’ve had maybe 10 or 20 games where it’s like this,” Markstrom said of losing a shutout late. ”What do you have to do for it? It is what it is. You can’t beat yourself up.
“You want to get rid of it and make it happen, but I’d take this any day of the week, for sure.”
Markus Granlund and Alexander Edler had goals in the opening period for Vancouver (13-10-4), which played at home for the first time since Nov. 18 following a successful 3-2-1 road trip.
“We had to work tonight, we had to defend hard,” said Canucks head coach Travis Green, whose team had just nine shots after the first period. ”A lot of guys paid a price to get a win.”
Frederik Andersen, the NHL’s second star of the month for November, made 24 saves in taking the loss for Toronto (17-10-1), which had 66 shot attempts to Vancouver’s 47.
“We generated a lot of pressure,” said Andersen. ”They did a good job of not letting us get to those opportunities for rebounds.”
The Leafs entered Saturday with a 9-2-1 record over their last 12, and were coming off consecutive victories in Edmonton and Calgary to open a three-game road trip through Western Canada.
“I’m greedy,” said Toronto head coach Mike Babcock. ”(Markstrom) was good, but in saying all that we weren’t ready to go at the start and (when) you play catch-up hockey it’s usually losing hockey.”
Leading 2-0 after 40 minutes, the Canucks were under siege to start the third, with Connor Brown coming close a couple of times as Toronto pinned Vancouver deep in the opening stages.
The visitors continued to press as the period wore on, with defenceman Morgan Rielly completely whiffing on an open net with three minutes to go before van Riemsdyk tipped home his 13th of the season moments later to get the Leafs within one.
But the Canucks survived a frantic finish that included the puck just rolling off the stick of Auston Matthews in the dying seconds to preserve the win inside a raucous Rogers Arena accented by duelling chants from both sets of fans as the Leafs made their annual visit to Vancouver.
“Our fans did a great job,” said Markstrom, who watched Anders Nilsson start the Canucks’ last two games. “The buzz in the arena like that is awesome.”
Vancouver opened the scoring at 4:52 of the first when Granlund ripped his fourth of the campaign, and first point in seven games, on a shot past the stick of Leafs defenceman Nikita Zaitsev that Andersen could only wave at after Matthews failed to clear puck out of Toronto’s end.
The Canucks then went ahead by two at 11:14 following a dominant shift by the Sedin twins where the Canucks controlled the puck for 28 seconds in the offensive zone on a delayed penalty. Daniel Sedin fed Henrik Sedin, who eventually found Edler with a pass from the right corner, and the defenceman made no mistake by ripping his first of the year shortside on Andersen.
Outshot 17-11 in the first, the Leafs had the first 10 shots of the second period as they pressed to get back in the game.
William Nylander blasted an effort on the power play that got a piece of Markstrom and the crossbar before the Canucks netminder also thwarted Nazem Kadri on a redirection from the slot.
Vancouver’s first shot of the period came with just over eight minutes left when Brock Boeser — the league’s rookie of the month for November — jumped on a turnover and fired a one timer that Andersen did well to keep out.
From there, it was pretty much the Markstrom show.
“Huge win,” he said. ”When you play Canadian teams it’s a little extra special.”
Notes: Vancouver honoured Daniel Sedin prior to the opening faceoff after the veteran winger recorded the 1,000th point of his career in Thursday’s victory over Nashville. Sedin is the 87th player in NHL history to reach 1,000 points, joining twin brother Henrik, who accomplished the feat last season. … The Canucks host Carolina on Tuesday, while the Leafs are home to Calgary on Wednesday.
Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press