Canucks Post Game: Horvat hangs in, Eriksson emergences, offensive defence, Roussel arrives

BOSTON —  Points to ponder as those who wondered where the goals were going to come from are scratching their heads after the Canucks struck eight times Thursday — and are now second with 59 goals — after a wild 8-5 decision over the Bruins at the TD Garden:

Wow’ factor makes Green’s day

Travis Green sounded the warning when asked about how his injury-riddled, never-day-die club was going to deal with menacing middle men in Patrice Bergeron, David Krjeci and David Backes. They cause matchup headaches and sleepless nights.

“It is a challenge,” Green said following the morning skate. “We’ve gone through that a few times this year. When you’re strong down the middle like that, you have faith as a coach that you can match up well. But it’s not just strength down the middle. It’s a team that has a chance to win a Stanley Cup.”

So, what was Green after the game?

“Wow, I definitely didn’t expect a game like that coming into Boston,” admitted the Canucks coach. “We’ll take it.”

That was just one take on a night where there were so many good stories.

There was Bo Horvat’s four points (2-2), his three penalties, tough matchups and winning 16 of 30 draws. There were two goals and three points from Loui Eriksson against his former club, a goal and an assist each from Erik Gudbranson and Ben Hutton and agitator Antoine Roussel drawing two penalties and scoring to make it 5-3.

Too little, too late, as instigator Torey Krug failed to get upper hand on Darren Archibald.

So, let’s let the coach break it down:

On the club’s resiliency to stay in tough games:

“I’m happy with our group. We’re finding ways to score goals and get production from everywhere, which you need. I’ve said that a lot. You’re never excited when you give up five, but man, that was an exciting game.”

On Horvat’s increasingly tougher roles:

“He has been carrying a heavy load for quite a bit and I like the way he’s playing now. It’s what we envisioned. He’s able to produce and go against top centremen and that’s what we’ve talked about his game progressing and evolving to the player he’ll eventually be.”

On Eriksson scoring, keeping defensive game:

“He’s reliable that way. We even made the switch and put him up with Horvat’s line to go against that top line (Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak) and he can do that. You know he can play against anyone and obviously there’s been a lot of talk about him not scoring. He’s had good looks and good chances.”

On Gudbranson scoring, killing off 5-on-3:

“His game has turned a corner. But him and (Ben) Hutton have stepped up. I thought Guddy’s game turned in Vegas (injuries to Alex Edler, Chris Tanev) and it’s probably the best we’ve seen him play. He’s more confident and he’s creeping in from the point more.”

Horvat shoulders another big load

Horvat knew it wasn’t going to be easy.

He opened scoring off a turnover, but winning faceoffs and puck battles was going to test his mettle. He took slashing, tripping and high-sticking penalties, but he also had a four-point night and sucked it up in the circle and allowed the Canucks to escape more often than not.

And just when it looked like frustration might get the best of Horvat, he bolted from the penalty box in the third period, blocked a Tuukka Rask clearing attempt, spun and slid the puck into a yawning cage on his fourth shot of the night for a three-goal lead. Jake Virtanen then got his sixth goal of the season.

And, just for good measure, Darren Archibald got the better of Torey Krug in a late-game scrap as the Bruin tried to salvage something in instigating the bout.

“The guys played phenomenal,” said Horvat, who logged a more manageable 19:03. “To have a tough loss in Detroit and come out like this tonight shows a lot of character. It was a crazy night. I definitely like to stay out of the box more but I thought we were ready for tonight.

“But it was tough. They have some of the best face-off guys in the league and you want to step up your game. And playing against top lines was my job in junior and to go against that top line tonight wasn’t easy. People probably thought we weren’t going to be that high scoring of a team, but we’re proving people wrong.”

Eriksson emerges from shadows

Eriksson scored 30 goals for the Bruins in 2015-16 and Thursday looked like turn-back-the-clock night for the much-maligned winger, who had a three-point effort.

With points in his two previous games, there was reason to believe that if playing here didn’t get the Swede revved up, what will? To his credit, Eriksson did what he did to command interest from the Canucks. He got to the net on his first goal — a Markus Granlund chance off a turnover, and then an Erik Gudbranson shot — as the rebound found him to slide home a backhand.

He then went one better by tipping a Hutton power-play point shot down and past Jaroslav Halak. He also had a team-high three takeaways, which speaks of what he’s been able to do when the goals weren’t coming.

“It was definitely nice to get the win against a good team,” said Eriksson. “I had some puck luck today, probably, even though the first goal off the Guddy shot, the puck just bounced to me. And to play good defensively, has always been an important part of the game for me. We played against the best defensive guy in Patrice.”

Defence shoots, defence scores

Gudbranson said he was feeling better and working on his skating in the offseason is paying off.

He’s getting up in the play, pinching down low and has added a surprising offensive element. He had an assist in three-straight games heading into Thursday. He then added another on Eriksson’s first goal before Tim Schaller provided the screen and Gubranson’s wrist shot from the point went over the shoulder of Tuukka Rask.

There was more.

Hutton’s power-play point shot found the net through a maze and it was his shot that Eriksson tipped.

“I don’t think we have any doubts in our minds,” said Gudbranson. “And that’s nice. We know we’re going to come into a tough building and know we’re going to give ourselves the best chance. The prior two years I was here, I don’t know if we had that. A goal goes in and something bad happens and the doubt creeps in. Mentally, we’re a lot stronger this year.”

And so is Gudbranson. He’s moving better and jumping up in plays.

“I did a lot of work this summer in trying to be more involved in plays and be tight and I feel more comfortable taking tine and space away and being more involved in battles.”

Roussel: A gab, a jab and a goal

It was going to take time for Antoine Roussel to fully recover from an Aug. 30 concussion and get into proper shape. Safe to say the agitating winger is over the ailment and has finally found his legs.

Roussel was already having an effective night by doing what he does best. He got in a first-period mosh pit in Halak’s kitchen. He gabbed, he jabbed, he drew two penalties and then he scored in the second period to give the Canucks a two-goal cushion.

And the manner in which Roussel scored — getting to the net to tip a Granlund wide-angle shot to chase Halak from the net after allowing five goals on 19 shots —  simply hasn’t happened enough this season and needs to occur more, especially on this trip.

Markstrom wins game of Survivor

There are goals Jacob Markstrom would like to have back Thursday and there were saves that kept the Canucks in the lead — especially a larcenous third-period glove save of Brad Marchand with the issue still in doubt.

“It was just one of those games,” shrugged Markstrom, who allowed five goals on 28 shots. “The bounces in the second period and it’s easy to get frustrated and rattled, but I just tried to stay calm and knew the guys would come up big because they just kept scoring goals.

“We have a pretty confident group.”

bkuzma@postmedia.com
twitter.com/@benkuzma

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