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Desperate Canucks face tall order on Wild’s home ice

Mar 24, 2022; Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Wild defenseman Jon Merrill (4) controls the puck against the Vancouver Canucks at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

After clawing back into the postseason conversation with a six-game winning streak, the Vancouver Canucks open a make-or-break two-game road trip Thursday night against the Minnesota Wild in Saint Paul, Minn.

Vancouver (38-28-11, 87 points) moved into a tie with the Vegas Golden Knights for fourth place in the Pacific Division with a 4-3 shootout loss to the visiting Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night.

However, every point counts down the stretch for Bruce Boudreau’s squad, who entered Wednesday’s action still trailing the Dallas Stars by four points for the final Western Conference wild-card spot with just five games to go.

Adding salt to the wounds, former Vancouver forward Adam Gaudette scored the winner in the fifth round of the shootout for Ottawa, which rallied from a 2-0 first-period deficit to pull out the win.

Now the Canucks hit the road to face Minnesota (48-21-7, 103 points), which is in a dogfight with St. Louis (46-20-11, 103 points) for second place in the Central Division and home ice in the first round of the playoffs,].

Vancouver then travels to Pacific Division leader Calgary on Saturday. The Canucks close the season with home games against Seattle and Los Angeles before a season finale at Edmonton.

“Would have liked to have two points, and this makes things a little more difficult and we’ve got to move on here and put this one behind us,” Boudreau said. “Give Ottawa credit. They played really hard, really well.”

Travis Dermott scored at 6:47 of the third period to tie it, 3-3, and garner Vancouver at least one point after the Canucks had surrendered three consecutive goals. Still, there is little, if any, room for error the rest of the way and the Canucks likely will also need a lot of help to sneak into the playoffs.

“We were going to be allowed one mulligan and we were thinking it might be on the trip,” Boudreau said. “We’ve responded well in the past and that’s the kind of mentality we need. This group has fought for almost five months and they’re not going to quit now.”

Picking up a road win against Minnesota certainly won’t be an easy task. The Wild are 27-7-2 on home ice and are riding a seven-game point streak (5-0-2), including two wins in a row.

Minnesota comes in off a 2-0 victory at Montreal on Tuesday. Kevin Fiala became the third member of the Wild to hit the 30-goal mark, joining Kirill Kaprizov (43) and Ryan Hartman (31), with a power-play goal in the first period that proved to be the game-winner while rookie Matt Boldy added a highlight-reel between-the-legs goal on a rebound in the third period to seal it.

Cam Talbot made 26 saves for his 30th win of the season while improving to 11-0-3 over his past 14 starts.

Fiala has six goals in his last five games and enters with a seven-game point streak (seven goals, seven assists).

“Feels great, it’s always fun to produce, but honestly I take it game by game,” Fiala said. “I don’t really think about those points, goals, whatsoever. The most important thing is to feel good to win the games with the team.”

–Field Level Media