The Canucks are now one win away from sending the defending Stanley Cup champion Blues packing.
Coach Travis Green’s young squad battled back from a two-goal deficit in the second period to beat St. Louis 4-3 and take a 3-2 series lead on Wednesday night.
Here are four key moments in the Canucks’ critical Game 5 win.
1. and 2. Motte opens and closes the scoring
With Vancouver short-handed in the first period, Tyler Motte took advantage of a broken stick at the point to spring out of the defensive zone. The oft-criticized forward then made one of the sweetest moves you’ll ever see as he went around said stick-breaker Alex Pietrangelo and beat Jake Allen for his first career playoff goal.
“It’s always nice to produce offensively,” Motte said postgame. “I’m not always called upon to do that, but to be able to chip in, especially this time of year, goals are hard to come by, especially in the playoffs and against a good team. So, we got to be able to contribute up and down the lineup and it’s obviously going to take some pressure off our top guys as well.”
Late in the second period, he netted the eventual game-winner off the rush for his second career multigoal game (his first was March 13, 2018, vs. the Rangers).
“I was happy for him,” Green said. “Does a lot of little things for our team, things that go unnoticed. But the guys in the room notice and at this time of the year you need guys to step up, and he was one of them today. I was happy for him, played a hell of a game.”
3. Jacob Markstrom’s big pad save
Before suffering a knee injury late, the Swedish netminder put together a regular season that should have earned him a spot in the Vezina Trophy conversation. On Wednesday, with the series tied, Vancouver needed him to showcase that poise and skill between the pipes.
By the end of the night, Markstrom had made 36 saves on 39 shots, and a few of them were acrobatic, including this diving blocker save after the puck hit a linesman:
No save was more critical, however, than this point-blank stop of Robert Thomas with the Canucks trailing 3-1 about halfway through the second period.
“I thought that save was big. You could feel it, even on the bench,” said Green. “Every once in a while there’s a save where the bench, someone will say, ‘That’s the one we need.’ And that was one of those moments when you know you got a big save, that might have been the one that kept you in the game and now you’ve got to push. I thought our guys responded off that save well.”
4. Jake Virtanen’s game-tying goal
Green and his staff decided to shake up the lines in the second period. Putting Virtanen on the top line with J.T. Miller and Elias Pettersson paid dividends. Virtanen had his best game of the postseason; he set up Miller’s goal that made the score 3-2, and then he potted the game-tying goal as he faked out Allen by not passing but instread putting the puck on net and scoring short side.
“[He] played well. We had some shifts together, he played simple,” Miller said Virtanen, who also got key time late in the game with the Canucks hanging on to their one-goal lead.
“When Jake plays simple like that, obviously he’s a force. He’s really fast. He’s really big.
“When he plays within himself and moves the puck along and gets rid of it quickly and goes to the net, good things happen. . . . That’s the goal that he scored, ended up being a huge goal for us.”
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