Vancouver Canucks power past St. Louis Blues to win Game 1

Bo Horvat #53 of the Vancouver Canucks (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Bo Horvat #53 of the Vancouver Canucks (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

In Game 1 of their first-round series, the Vancouver Canucks used three third-period goals to beat the St. Louis Blues.

The Vancouver Canucks dominated the last 15 minutes of play and broke open a tied game with three third period goals to secure Game 1 of their First Round series against the defending champion St. Louis Blues.

For the second game in a row, a Canucks defensemen became the unsung hero, as Troy Stecher‘s goal 5:37 into the third period proved to be the game-winner. The undrafted defensemen out of the University of North Dakota in his fourth NHL season beat Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington blocker side with a shot just outside the top of the faceoff circle along the boards to give the Canucks a 3-2 lead.

The Blues took control of the first 5 minutes of the third period but failed to clear the puck out of the defensive zone in this exchange, which lead to Tanner Pearson winning the puck battle in the far corner and blindly backhanding a pass through the offensive zone to an open Stecher coming in from the blue line to bury what would become the game winner. Vancouver would preserve that lead in a game they never trailed.

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Vancouver would take control of the game from there on out as Captain Bo Horvat would score his second goal of the game 2:22 minutes later to make 4-2. J.T. Miller would score the last of three Power Play goals on the night for Vancouver in the last minute of play to secure the victory.

Horvat opened the scoring 4:29 into the game with a power play goal off of precision passing from Calder Trophy winner from last year Elias Petterson at the point to Miller at the blue line to Calder Trophy candidate Quinn Hughes in the far circle to Horvat in the slot for the goal. The Power Play opportunity was created by a Canucks forward Brandon Sutter breakaway that lead to a slash on Blues Defenseman Justin Faulk.

The Blues would answer with a Power Play goal of their own with 3:23 left to go in the first period. David Perron scored on a similar precision passing attack as Conn Smythe Trophy winner from last year Ryan O’Reilly won a puck battle in the corner and passed to Brayden Schenn around the faceoff circle who hit Perron for his third goal of the postseason to tie the score heading into the second period.

In the second period, the Blues got more physical to slow down the speed game of the Canucks were dictating.

Seesaw battle until Petterson buried a Power Play goal created on a power move to the net from past Calder Trophy finalist Brock Boeser that became a broken play and a loose puck in the slot right to Petterson for the 2-1 lead. Blues forward Jaden Schwartz would respond just 1:12 later, deflecting a faceoff win from JT Miller back to Tanev that lead to a breakaway score to tie the game at 2 heading into the third.

Canucks goaltender Jacob Markstrom stopped 29 of 31 Blues shots for the game and was strong throughout the contest. Especially in the first period stopping open shots from the slot from Perron and Vladimir Tarasenko to keep the Blues off the board. The second period saw more of the same as Markstrom was poised, held great positioning throughout the game and stifled many prime scoring chances from the Blues.

The third was a lighter workload as he faced only four shots on goal for the period before the Blues pulled their goaltender with 3:20 left to go in the game. He did make one kick save with the puck inching towards crossing the goal line to preserve the two goal lead at the time.

This was the strong performance that lead many to believe he was in the conversation for a Vezina Trophy finalist before an injury interrupted his season going into the Pandemic stoppage.

Game 1 was an even battle through two periods where each team played to their strengths. As even as most of the team stats are for the regular season for these two teams in comparison. After a short flurry from the Blues to start the third, the Canucks took over after Stecher’s goal. The Canucks looked like the more experienced playoff ready team after Game 1.

The St. Louis Blues are now 0-4 in August, after dropping the three Round Robin contests against the other top teams in the Western Conference before tonight. They should flashes of the Cup winning form through the first 45 minutes of the contest through puck possessions and physicality but could not contain the speed game of the Canucks in the third.

They will look to get their first win in these playoffs and even this best of seven series on Friday night at 6:30 pm EST/3:30 PM PST.

Game notes

Canucks regular-season scoring leader JT Miller missed warmups and was a game-time decision. He blocked a shot in the Qualifying Round against Minnesota and has a right-hand injury. He had a goal and an assist in Game 1. Canucks forward Tyler Toffoli missed the Game 1 due to injury as he missed the last 2 games of the Qualifying Round.

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Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes leads all NHL Defensemen in playoff scoring with 7, and is on a 4 game point-scoring streak. Blues forward Zach Sanford took a shot to the face from teammate Alex Pietrangelo in the third period while falling to the ice in front of the net. He would remain in the game.