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THE MOJ: Demanding even wins happen ‘the right way’ shows Canuck culture shift

Taking the foot of the gas against Ottawa unacceptable to this version of the team

If you needed evidence that there has been a cultural shift with the Vancouver Canucks, Tuesday night’s 6-3 win over the Ottawa Senators at Rogers Arena was ‘Exhibit A’ judging by some of the post-game comments from head coach Rick Tocchet and his players.

It was a victory, but at the end of the night, it was pretty obvious that the standards that have been set by Tocchet and his staff were not met.

The Canucks took advantage of some shoddy goaltending and some lucky bounces to chase Sens starting netminder Anton Forsberg out of the game after he gave up four goals on 13 shots in the first period. When the smoke had cleared after 20 minutes, the Canucks had a 5-0 lead courtesy of two goals from Elias Pettersson with Ian Cole, Pius Sutter and J.T. Miller adding singles.

“It was a great period. Probably one of our best periods in about a month,” Tocchet stated post-game.

It’s what happened after the opening period that left a sour taste in the mouth of Tocchet and players such as Miller.

The Senators battled back with goals from Claude Giroux and a pair of third period goals by Vladimir Tarasenko to make it 5-3 with 2:31 remaining in the game but the Canucks responded with Suter scoring his second goal of the night just 13 seconds later to seal the win for Vancouver.

“I just liked our start. I think no matter if you score those (types of) goals or not, it’s good for the game and good for the pace. That being said, I felt like we just totally sat on a five-goal lead after the first period. If we are going to take steps as a team, we are going to need to play the second and third like it’s nothing-nothing. I thought we played worse after the first period, so it’s nice to enjoy the win but we are going to evaluate ourselves honestly and we didn’t play very well after the first period,” explained Miller.

Yes, it was a win but one good period and two poor ones won’t cut it in the majority of games moving forward and especially on the seven-game road trip that starts Thursday night in St. Louis.

Simply put, this edition of the Canucks isn’t satisfied with sub-par performances even if they do result in two points in the standings and that’s a good thing. It means that a bar has been set and there is going to be accountability if the process isn’t followed – win or lose.

“We didn’t play the right way. We’ll take the two points but it was a learning lesson for us. I didn’t like our (last) 40 and I hope the guys didn’t, but hey, we won the game. I loved our first period…that’s basically my assessment of the game,” Tocchet said with a tinge of sarcasm.

As his post-game session continued, you had the feeling that Tocchet was anything but happy with his team’s overall performance.

“The last two periods we lost our staples. We didn’t go through people and then we were backing up. Guys were skating backwards in the neutral zone. We were pinching when we shouldn’t. Those were the things for me that I don’t like. It can become contagious, so we’ve got to stop that,” expanded Tocchet, who also added it should have been an ‘easier night’ for goaltender Thatcher Demko.

There was one thing that did bring a smile to Tocchet’s face post-game and that was the first period power play goal by Pettersson.

The Canucks entered the game with only two power play goals in their last 22 opportunities spanning six games. The power play woes resulted in the first power play unit getting some extra work during the game day skate even though it was supposed to be an optional workout.

The Canucks scored on their only opportunity of the game when Pettersson misfired on a one-timer only to see the puck deflected by Senators defenseman Jake Sanderson and sneak by goaltender Joonas Korpisalo, who had come into the game for Forsberg by that point.

“I do like the fact that it was one of the plays we worked on this morning. It was downhill, and if the lane was open to Petey, to get it to him. Sometimes you get those lucky goals. 100% it was nice to get a power play goal and maybe get the confidence going for the guys,” Tocchet noted.


* Wayne Gretzky made the trek to Vancouver from Seattle after working the Winter Classic between the Kraken and the Vegas Golden Knights for TNT on Monday to take in the Canucks game. Gretzky and Tocchet were teammates for a couple of seasons in the ‘90’s with the L.A. Kings and Tocchet was an assistant coach for one season in Phoenix under Gretzky.

* The Great One was bullish on the Canucks when we asked for his thoughts on the team at the morning skate. “Obviously their record speaks for itself. I’m sure everybody in the area is pretty excited about where they are and what they’ve accomplished so far. They got to be proud. Watching the games, they’re playing with a lot of heart and playing hard. Their goaltending has been solid, their best players are playing at a high level – Hughes and Miller and Pettersson – and everyone else has jumped on the wagon. They deserve all the accolades they are getting right now. It’s been fun to watch,” said Gretzky, who took in the game from the stands with Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini and Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger.

* The Canucks lost forward Phil Di Giuseppe in the first period to a lower-body injury. Tocchet told reporters post-game that it would ‘be awhile’ before Di Giuseppe would be back in the lineup and also added the team would probably recall a forward from Abbotsford for the upcoming road trip.

* Nils Aman was a healthy scratch for Vancouver with Tocchet saying that ‘three, four, five guys that will be rotated (in and) out’ of a forward spot while looking for someone to establish themselves.

* Senators President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Steve Staois was on the trip with his team. Staois played for the Canucks from 1997 through 1999 – appearing in 143 games for Vancouver.

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

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