Canucks look to complete turnaround vs. Knights in Game 7
Backed by the stellar play of rookie goalie Thatcher Demko, the Vancouver Canucks have climbed back from a two-game deficit in their Western Conference semifinal series against the Vegas Golden Knights and forced Game 7 on Friday night in Edmonton.
Demko stepped in for Jacob Markstrom in Game 5 on Tuesday and made 42 saves in the 2-1 win, becoming the first rookie goalie to win his NHL playoff debut when facing elimination since Jose Theodore of the Montreal Canadiens in 1997.
Demko came back with 48 saves in a 4-0 win in Game 6 on Thursday, the most saves by an NHL rookie in a postseason shutout.
The San Diego native likely will get a chance to start Game 7, the second of back-to-back games and the third in four days, because Markstrom remains a question mark due to a groin injury, and Demko's play continues to get better and better anyway.
He has made 66 consecutive saves since Vegas defenseman Shea Theodore scored at 15:12 of the second period in Game 5.
Should he get the start for Game 7, Demko said he anticipates making only one change to his routine.
"The only difference will be I might not skate (Friday)," he said. "That's how college was for me. It's nothing new for anyone in pro hockey. We've just got to prepare the same way."
Markstrom, who allowed 15 goals in the first four games of the series, did not serve as the backup in either Game 5 nor Game 6, leaving that duty to veteran Louis Domingue.
The Golden Knights will try to avoid a repeat of last season, when they held a 3-1 series lead against the San Jose Sharks in the first round before losing in seven games, the final two going to overtime.
Vegas coach Peter DeBoer, who coached the Sharks to that series win against the Golden Knights last season before he was fired in December and hired by his current club a month later, said there's no place for frustration right now.
"We've got to win one game to move on," he said.
DeBoer said after Game 6 that he had not made a decision on his starting goalie for Game 7.
He could turn to veteran Marc-Andre Fleury, who won three Stanley Cup titles with the Pittsburgh Penguins from 2008-17 and is 3-0 this postseason, but Robin Lehner has also been sensational during this series, posting shutouts in Games 1 and 3.
Fleury started Game 4 and made 28 saves in a 5-3 win. Lehner stopped 15 of 17 shots in Game 5, then made 19 saves on 22 attempts in Game 6.
"Whoever plays, plays," Lehner said. "If I get to play, I'll do my best like I always do. I feel pretty good out there, the bounces just aren't going our way."
Vancouver forward Jake Virtanen, who scored the first goal in Game 6, needed help getting off the ice after taking a hit late in the third period, but he was around to answer questions after the game.
"The last two games have been great for us," he said. "We want to carry that momentum into the last game."
The Canucks have also been getting solid support from their defenseman, particularly rookie Quinn Hughes, who has 14 assists in the playoffs to match the NHL postseason record by a rookie. Marian Stastny of the Quebec Nordiques in 1982 and Ville Leino of the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010 also had 14 assists.
With a goal and an assist Thursday, Hughes increased his playoff point total to 16, passing the record of 15 set a day earlier by the Colorado Avalanche's Cale Makar.
--Field Level Media