Though their playoff hopes have been dashed, the Vancouver Canucks still have something to play for in their season finale at Edmonton on Friday night.
The Canucks (40-30-11, 91 points) still can pass preseason Pacific Division favorite Vegas Golden Knights (42-31-8, 92 points) and finish in fourth place with a win and a Golden Knights loss at St. Louis. The Blues are in a battle with the Minnesota Wild for home ice in their first-round playoff matchup and don’t figure to hold anything back.
Vancouver was dead last in the Pacific with a 8-15-2 record and 18 points when coach Bruce Boudreau took over for Travis Green on Dec. 6. The Canucks promptly won seven in a row and are 32-15-9 since.
The Canucks are 7-2-1 in their past 10 games and rallied from a 2-0 third-period deficit to defeat the Los Angeles Kings, 3-2, in overtime in their home finale on Thursday night — just 24 hours after the Dallas Stars clinched the final Western Conference playoff spot.
“I told them I was so proud of them,” Boudreau said. “It would have been easy for the last two games just to fold the tent. After fighting so hard for so long to get to where you want to be (in the playoff race) and you don’t get there, it’s like letting the air out of a balloon. But these guys keep fighting and fighting. It’s not going to surprise me (Friday) night if they’re going to fight again in Edmonton.”
Brock Boeser scored two goals in the comeback win, including the game-winner with a wrist shot rebound from the slot with 29.7 seconds left in overtime.
“Shows what our team is capable of,” Boeser said. “It’s pretty amazing where we are right now compared to the beginning of the year, and we take a lot of pride in that. We’ve got another big game (Friday) that we want to take pride in and finish the year strong.”
Edmonton (48-27-6, 102 points) already has second place in the Pacific and home ice for its first-round matchup with the Los Angeles Kings locked up and comes in off a 5-4 overtime win over visiting San Jose on Thursday. Zach Hyman scored the winner on a one-timer off a Ryan Nugent-Hopkins pass. Mikko Koskinen made 40 saves as the Oilers improved to 13-0-1 in their past 14 home games.
“We found a way to win,” Edmonton coach Jay Woodcroft said. “What a play by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to find Hyman like that and a great finish by Zach.”
With the playoffs on deck and nothing to really play for, Woodcroft was asked if he might rest some of his key players in the regular-season finale.
“I think we’re just going to enjoy tonight, enjoy the win for the next 20 minutes or so, and the we’ll see how everybody wakes up in the morning,” Woodcroft said with a smile after the win. “We’ll make our decisions then.”
Woodcroft said he would take playing the second game of a back-to-back into consideration when trying to decide whether to rest any players.
“Yes, just the work load,” he said. “I still haven’t seen anything from the league or anything confirming (playoff) dates. So for us the back-to-back will factor into our decision-making for (Friday) night’s lineup.”
–Field Level Media