Demko records 30 save shutout, Canucks beat Kings in new head coach’s debut

Demko records 30 save shutout, Canucks beat Kings in new head coach's debut
Vancouver Canucks / Twitter

Bruce Boudreau needed a little help behind the Vancouver Canucks’ bench Monday night.

He’d been installed as the team’s head coach less than 24 hours before as part of sweeping changes throughout the organization. The move barely gave him enough time to learn his players’ names before the puck dropped in a tilt with the L.A. Kings.

“I’ll get to know the players more, but it’s four new lines thrown at you, sometimes it’s a bit of a whirlwind,” Boudreau said after the Canucks blanked the Kings 4-0. “But it was fun. I had a lot of people on the bench to help me.”

The newly minted coach had a meeting and a half-hour-long morning skate with his players before the game and left them with a simple message.

“I just keep telling them that they’re good players,” he said. “I’ve always thought they were good players. They’ve got to start believing that they’re good players. And when they do that, they’ll be fine.”

Monday’s victory came after Vancouver cleaned house on Sunday, firing general manager Jim Benning, assistant manager Jim Weisbrod, head coach Travis Green and assistant coach Nolan Baumgartner.

Boudreau, a Toronto native who previously served as head coach for the Capitals, Ducks and Wild, was hired as the new head coach through the 2022-23 season, while former senior advisor Stan Smyl was named interim manager.

It’s been a difficult season for the Canucks (9-15-2), who came into Monday’s game having lost 10 of their last 13 outings.

Things began to click on Monday, though, with Thatcher Demko making 30 saves for his first shutout of the season.

Brock Boeser and J.T. Miller each had a power-play goal and an assist for Vancouver, while Conor Garland and Juho Lammikko also found the back of the net.

“I thought they played really hard and that’s what I asked them to do, what all the coaches asked them to do,” Boudreau said. “We made a lot of mistakes that are correctable mistakes. But when you win and you can get away with those correctable mistakes, I think it’s a great teaching tool for (Tuesday’s) practice.”

Cal Petersen stopped 27-of-31 for the Kings (10-10-4), who beat the Oilers 5-1 in Edmonton on Sunday.

L.A. defenceman Alex Edler faced the Canucks for the first time in his career. The 35-year-old played 15 seasons in Vancouver before signing with L.A. as a free agent in July.

The club recognized Edler with a video tribute during early in the first period, and the veteran blueliner hopped over the boards to wave to the cheering crowd.

Edler said his former team got a boost from their new bench boss.

“I think they came out hot and we were expecting that, we talked about that,” he said. “With a new coach, you want to make a good first impression, so they came out hard, they played hard and didn’t really give us a lot of room and we were just a step behind today.”

Special teams have been a struggle for the Canucks this season, but Vancouver went 2 for 4 on the power play Monday and successfully weathered two penalties.

L.A.’s Lias Anderson was called for high-sticking on Oliver Ekman-Larsson midway through the third and Miller capitalized on the man advantage. His blast from inside the faceoff circle careened into the net off the crossbar at the 12:48 mark to put Vancouver up 4-0.

Lahmmikko gave the Canucks their third goal of the night 6:59 into the period, picking off an errant Kings pass and putting a shot past Petersen stick side for his first goal in a Vancouver jersey. The 25-year-old left-winger was a healthy scratch in the previous five games.

Vancouver nearly saw its lead boosted in the second period after Elias Pettersson was hooked from behind by Alex Iafallo on a short-handed chance. The star centre was awarded a penalty shot but sent his ensuing blast into the glass behind the L. A. goal.

The Canucks went up a pair 5:43 into the middle frame.

Rookie Vasily Podkolzin put a shot wide with the puck ricocheting off the end boards. Garland picked up the rebound behind the net and wrapped it into the yawning net before Petersen could get back in position.

A power-play goal opened the scoring early in the second after L.A.’s Mikey Anderson was called for tripping Bo Horvat.

Stationed at the goal line, Tanner Pearson sliced a pass to Boeser at the top of the faceoff circle. The right-winger uncorked a snap shot and the puck deflected in off the skate of Kings defenceman Drew Doughty in front of the net.

The goal was Boeser’s fifth of the season and his first in 14 games.

“It’s funny how the games worked over this drought where I haven’t scored goals, I felt I got some pretty good chances, hit posts, crossbars and then that’s the one that goes in,” Boeser said. “It’s crazy how this game works, but at the end of the day it went in the night and I’ll take it. I just got to continue to build and keep shooting the puck.”

The Canucks will be back in action Wednesday when they host the Boston Bruins. The Kings will entertain the Dallas Stars in L.A. on Thursday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 6, 2021.


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