. On Christmas Day 3, the Vancouver Canucks claimed their third consecutive win.
They beat the San Jose Sharks 6-2 on Tuesday to get back to where they intended to be on Oct. 13: one game over .500. From this humble setting, they can see a NHL playoff spot five points ahead of them, which is still a daunting distance in the standings.
But for a team that started the season with seven straight losses, going 16-15-3 isn’t as bad as it sounds. And the franchise, of course, was in a much worse shape at Christmastime.
Lynn Pederson’s Cannock Suite has never been in a better place to spend the holidays
After 227 games in the minors over five seasons, the 25-year-old from Saskatoon spends the holidays on a streak with Elias Peterson and Andrey Kuzmenko. So really, whatever he got for Christmas would have pale in comparison to the opportunity he had with the Canucks.
On Tuesday, Pederson deftly deflected Luke Chien’s shot into the net, then forced James Reimer to save a rebound before Peterson slotted the ball under the San Jose goalkeeper to make it 2-0 at halftime in what turned out to be a rare touchdown. A wire-to-wire win for Vancouver.
A throw-in in the October trade that brought defenseman Ethan Beer to the Canucks from the Carolina Hurricanes, Pederson was called up from the American Hockey League 10 days earlier — and after scoring 17 goals in 18 games — when Peterson was unable to play due to an illness. He was stuck in the lineup when the Canucks star returned last week, earning him a promotion to the top six.
He has three points in three games playing Peterson and Kuzmenko after collecting just five points in 46 NHL games scattered over three seasons and three teams.
“It’s a huge opportunity and I’m so grateful and I just want to keep going,” Pederson said Tuesday. “Obviously it’s a really good opportunity to play with them. Very fun. It’s obviously a dream come true to play in the NHL, and then when you play with very talented players like that, it improves the whole deal.”
When you're going to score 50, that's how you shoot the puck.#BoHorvat
— Iain MacIntyre (@imacSportsnet) December 28, 2022
“I think it definitely helps the way I play the game. Obviously, they’re both really smart players and I’m able to read and react to what they’re doing and try to get the puck and open up.”
The play he made on Tuesday to help Peterson’s goal is something Pederson and Shane may have planned on Turkey on the 25th. Pederson is engaged to Madison Shane, Luke’s sister. When a pre-Christmas blizzard on the West Coast thwarts the couple’s plans to return home for the holiday, Lynn and Madison spend Christmas at Shane’s house.
“He was world class on both nights,” said Pederson. “They are amazing people. His parents are in town, and his wife’s parents were in town, so a lot of family and it was great.”
Tuesday’s game was a continuation of the festive atmosphere. Since an impressive 5-2 road win against the Edmonton Oilers last Thursday, the Canucks have scored early and often against the Sharks, winning easily, for a change, without the drama of exploding leads or occupying deficits.
They only made 26 shots and outscored the Sharks every period. Bo Horvat – who else? – He scored two more goals and achieved the second consecutive night of four points, while his teammate Ilya Mikheev scored one goal and three assists and was a plus-five.
Even Quinn Hughes scored for Vancouver, hitting a short run into the top shelf in the third period after going past San Jose twice. One of the best passers on earth, Hughes hasn’t scored since last season.
In 30 games, Hughes now has 1 goal and 28 assists.
“Beau came up to me and (asked) if I wanted the disc,” Hughes told reporters. “It’s kind of funny, but it’s not funny. It shouldn’t happen to me but at the same time, sometimes you go through a stretch like that. I felt like I was getting a lot of buzz and not getting the score. I’ve been happy with my last 10, 15 and 20 games, so I have to keep it going and if the results come in, great.”
The results, however, are not a reward for the Canucks. Their false start in October has pretty much made them a nighttime necessity. The team is now 12-6 since ending a three-game losing streak with a win on November 15 in Buffalo that may have saved head coach Bruce Boudreau’s job.
“It was probably the toughest season for a lot of the guys in this room, mentally, starting 0-7 when we thought we were going to start really well,” Hughes said.
“At least for me, it’s been tough. And to get over .500 now and three in a row, I think it means a lot to everyone here and we just have to keep it going because we know it can change quickly. But I think the way we’re playing now, We can continue to chime together (win).”
The Canucks finished 2022 with trips to Winnipeg and Calgary, starting Thursday against the Jets. This is the third time since Buffalo that Vancouver has won three in a row, but the team has yet to count to four.
“We’re doing little putts and taking a step back, little rises and taking a step back,” said goaltender Spencer Martin. “So it was very difficult mentally. We haven’t had a game where it’s just like free hockey.”
And it’s still not likely they’ll get one of those for a while.