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THE MOJ: Canucks passengers need to start driving the bus after Game 4

Coach Tocchet calls out ‘5 or 6 guys’ for not putting in the works as Edmonton evens series
Vancouver Canucks’ Elias Pettersson (40) and Edmonton Oilers’ Evan Bouchard (2) battle for the puck during third period second-round NHL playoff action in Edmonton on Tuesday May 14, 2024.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

The Edmonton Oilers were a desperate team and it showed as they beat the Vancouver Canucks by a 3-2 margin at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Tuesday night to tie their best-of-seven second round series at two games a piece.

It simply boiled down to effort – and the Canucks didn’t have enough players matching the Oilers in that department.

“We need five or six guys to get going here. It’s the Stanley Cup playoffs. We can’t play with 12 guys, so we’ve got to figure it out quick. Obviously, it’s a tough one. Edmonton came to play – they wanted it more early,” Vancouver head coach Rick Tocchet said afterwards.

J.T. Miller didn’t play at the level most of us are accustomed to but you can classify that as an exception and not the norm. The playoffs are a grind, both mentally and physically, so you can give Miller a mulligan for game four.

The same cannot be said for Elias Pettersson, who again was the target for Canuck Nation on social media after the game. Vancouver’s $11.5 million dollar man has been a non-factor with just one goal in 10 playoff games.

Never mind the lack of production, it’s the lack of compete that has Canuck fans fuming and his coach frustrated.

“He’s got to get going. I don’t know what else to say,” said a disappointed Tocchet when questioned about Pettersson’s play.

The Canucks looked listless for most of the night as Edmonton took a 2-0 lead into the third but got some juice when Conor Garland took a tip pass from Elias Lindholm and made his way to the slot where he let go a wrist shot that beat Oilers netminder Calvin Pickard to make it 2-1 at 6:54 of the third.

From there on in, the Canucks had the Oilers on their heels and tied the game when Dakota Joshua got credited for a goal with 1:41 remaining in the third period. Joshua, Lindholm and Oiler defenseman Darnell Nurse were all in front of the crease when Brock Boeser took a shot that deflected off Joshua’s skate.

Overtime loomed but the Canucks wound up making up several mistakes that allowed Evan Bouchard’s shot from the blueline to elude all the traffic in front and beat a screened Arturs Silovs with :39 seconds remaining in the third.

“It’s a will to get the puck. It’s not X’s and O’s. There are times where you know where the puck is going to go. You just have to get there before the other guy and I think we are pausing. Some guys are playing pause hockey and you can’t win if you have five or six passengers or seven. There’s at least half a dozen passengers tonight. Quite frankly, that’s what it was,” said Tocchet.

The Oilers opened the scoring at 11:10 of the first on the power play with Miller in the box for a high-sticking infraction on Leon Draisaitl. Draisaitl made him pay with a sharp angle shot from the right side after Conor McDavid darted to the middle and drew three defenders to him before passing it off to Draisaitl, whose one-timer was very similar to the goal he scored in the second game.

The Oilers took a two-goal lead when Ryan Nugent-Hopkins took advantage of a 2-on-1 with McDavid and beat Silovs with :40 remaining in the second period.

Some of Canuck Nation blamed Canuck defenseman Noah Juulsen for the odd-man rush as he stepped up and delivered a big hit on Edmonton’s Mattias Ekholm. It was obviously the wrong decision but you can’t be too critical of Juulsen for a couple of reasons. One, it was his first game in nearly three weeks so timing may have been an issue. Second, and more importantly, he made the mistake going 100% which you can never be overly critical of a player.

“The second goal at the end of the period was a killer. You can’t do that,” said Tocchet, who also praised Juulsen for his overall performance.

Another area of concern has to be special teams.

The Canucks received a four-minute power play when Edmonton’s Evander Kane was called for high-sticking on Vancouver’s Tyler Myers at 14:12 of the first. With an opportunity to tie the game - and possibly take the lead – Vancouver’s power play was abysmal and managed just one shot during the four minutes. The power play actually gave the Oilers momentum and took it away from Vancouver.

“It just wasn’t good enough. They know it. I don’t think they worked hard. They mismanaged the puck. It’s a four-minute power play. You have to have a work ethic. You have to hold pucks and I just don’t think we did,” said Tocchet.

“I’m just going to be honest with you. I’m tired of talking about it. I’m just going to tell you the same thing,” said a clearly frustrated Miller when the subject of the power play was broached.

Meanwhile, the Oilers power play continued to operate a peak efficiency with the Draisaitl goal, going one-for-two on the night and is now five-for-ten on the series.

The series is now a best-of-three with Vancouver holding home-ice advantage with game five on Thursday night in Vancouver at Rogers Arena.

Hopefully, the Canucks won’t have any passengers on Thursday.

If they do, it might be the last home game of the season.


* Silovs made 27 saves for Vancouver while Pickard, making his first-ever playoff start in place of Stuart Skinner, stopped 19 shots for the Oilers.

* It was the eighth straight one-goal game playoff game that the Canucks have been involved in. The Canucks record in those games is 5-3.

* Tocchet hinted at making one or two possible lineup changes. Look for Nils Hoglander to be possibly re-inserted with Sam Lafferty a potential scratch. Lafferty didn’t see the ice in the last half of the third period and finished with a team-low 7:23 of ice time.

Veteran B.C. sports personality Bob “the Moj” Marjanovich writes twice weekly for Black Press Media.

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