The Vancouver Canucks showed Monday that the best defense is a hot goaltender.
Thatcher Demko stopped 27 shots for his first career regular-season shutout as the Canucks snapped a four-game losing streak with a 4-0 road victory over the Winnipeg Jets. The teams will conclude their two-game series Tuesday in Winnipeg.
“I think over the last handful of games, our defensive side of things is coming along really nicely,” Demko said. “(Monday) was kind of the pinnacle of building up to this point.
“The first two periods, I didn’t see much. They’re a good team over there. They’re going to try and claw their way back into the game in the third, and I thought we did a good job handling that and playing the right way for a full 60 (minutes).”
Demko’s only previous shutout came in the second round of last season’s Western Conference playoffs, when he made 48 saves in a 4-0 victory against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 6.
Nate Schmidt and J.T. Miller scored 18 seconds apart midway through the first period and Nils Hoglander added a power-play goal about six minutes later as the Canucks built a 3-0 lead. Elias Pettersson scored an empty-net goal late in the third period.
“I think we just had a good mindset going in,” Vancouver defenseman Travis Hamonic said. “We just wanted to keep our foot on the gas a little bit and weather their storm when they came and be ready for our opportunities when we get back into their end and play our brand of hockey.
“I think it was an important second half to the game for us, for sure, and especially with a back-to-back seeing the same team (Tuesday).”
All three of the first-period goals came on shots from just inside the blue line that were either tipped or snuck their way past a screened Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck.
“When you know you can get yourself into those areas (in front of the net), that’s where the goals are scored,” Schmidt said. “I was proud of our guys for how we got to those areas (Monday).”
The Jets, who had a four-game winning streak snapped, put just 12 shots on goal through the first two periods before Demko made 15 stops in the third.
“We didn’t get our offensive game to where it needs to get to until the third,” Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice said. “There wasn’t much for us. … I don’t think we gave up a whole heck of a lot. They get up 3-0, they’re going to sit on it a bit, so they stop forcing the issue.”
Added Jets captain Blake Wheeler: “You’re down three, it’s tough. We have shown an ability to fight back from that this year. I still felt we had a chance to claw our way back into the game. It was just too big of a hurdle.”
Hellebuyck stopped 15 of the 18 shots he faced.
“You’ve got to have a short memory in this league,” Jets center Mark Scheifele said. “You can’t dwell on things too long. You’ve got to get a good sleep and get ready for (Tuesday).”
After the Tuesday game, the Canucks will return to Vancouver to open a five-game homestand while the Jets will play 12 of their next 14 games on the road.
–Field Level Media