Miller scores late, Canucks grind out 3-2 win over Oilers in Game 5

Miller scores late, Canucks grind out 3-2 win over Oilers in Game 5
Vancouver Canucks' J.T. Miller (9) scores the winning goal against Edmonton Oilers goalie Calvin Pickard during the third period in Game 5 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup second-round playoff series, in Vancouver, on Thursday, May 16, 2024.

Rick Tocchet challenged his Vancouver Canucks to up their game.

The team responded to the head coach in a big way Thursday, coming back from an early deficit to grind out a crucial 3-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers in Game 5 of their second-round playoff series.

Tocchet wasn’t surprised his players answered the call.

“The bounce back or whatever you want to call it, it’s been all year,” he said. “I mean, it happened a few times this year where we didn’t like our effort and we dealt with it. And we usually bounce back. So it’s all the players, you gotta give them a ton of credit.”

The victory gave Vancouver a 3-2 edge in the best-of-seven series, with Game 6 set for Saturday in Edmonton.

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Tocchet juggled his lines after the Canucks dropped a 3-2 decision to the Oilers on Tuesday.

After playing in Game 4, veteran forwards Ilya Mikheyev and Sam Lafferty sat Thursday out alongside newcomer Linus Karlsson and defenceman Noah Juulsen. Carson Soucy, Phillip Di Giuseppe and Nils Hoglander all returned to the lineup and Vasily Podkolzin came in for his NHL playoff debut.

Soucy and Di Giuseppe put up big performances, with each scoring a goal. Star centre J.T. Miller sealed the victory, scoring in the final minute of the third period.

Di Giuseppe’s goal — his first ever in the playoffs — capped an whirlwind week where he and his wife Maggie welcomed their second child, a son named Sam.

“It’s been crazy, but it’s good emotions I guess. So kind of on a high right now,” said the depth forward, who missed games 3 and 4 to be with his family.

“It’s been a battle the nine months for her and obviously with my job, I’ve been away a lot and she’s been in the hospital a lot. So we’ve had a lot of family coming in and out and supporting us. … It takes a village and it’s a blessing.”

Soucy was forced to miss Game 4 after receiving a one-game suspension for cross-checking Connor McDavid at the end of Game 3.

“It sucks sitting out, especially a heartbreaking loss. So you kind of just want to come back in and do your thing,” the defenceman said.

Miller played in Tuesday’s loss but was publicly critical of his own performance.

He bounced back Thursday and delivered the final blow with just 31.9 seconds left on the clock.

Pius Sutter fired a shot from near the boards, which bounced off the skate of Elias Pettersson in front of the net and hit the post. Miller picked it up and batted it in for his third goal of the playoffs.

Miller is a player who wears his heart on his sleeve, for better or worse, Tocchet said.

“He’ll tell you — when he sucks, he sucks. And that’s what I love about him. And there haven’t been many suck games from him,” the coach said. “He’s been a monster since I’ve been here, since day one. And that was a monster effort, again (tonight).”

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Evander Kane opened the scoring for the Oilers early in the first and Mattias Janmark found the back of the net before the end of the period.

Rookie goalie Arturs Silovs made 21 saves for Vancouver and Edmonton’s Calvin Pickard stopped 32 of the 35 shots he faced.

The Oilers took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission and the Canucks responded by outshooting the visitors 17-4 across the middle frame.

“They played faster than we did and I think we play best when we’re skating and we’re getting the puck behind them and taking control of the pace but obviously that wasn’t the case in the second,” said Edmonton winger Zach Hyman. “I thought we started to find our game in the third there. Obviously they got the late one there.”

The Oilers know what they need to do heading into a potential elimination game on Saturday, said head coach Kris Knoblauch.

“When you don’t have the puck, it looks like you’re chasing the game and we want to have the puck a lot more and making more plays and we just want to play faster, quicker and a little more competitive,” he said.

“The guys are trying and I think the defensive details are there, but I think the biggest thing we want to take out of this is we just got to be making plays. If we’re making plays, we possess the puck and that’s when we’re the strongest.”


The Oilers were 0-for-5 on the power play while the Canucks went 0-for-4.

Edmonton came into Game 5 with the top power play in the playoffs, capitalizing on 46.7 per cent of its man advantages in the post-season.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 16, 2024.

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