Nikolay Goldobin got the reset.
Sam Gagner got the re-assignment.
Josh Leivo got the relocation. And the adulation.
On a day when the Vancouver Canucks sent some strong and mixed messages — scratching third-leading scorer Goldobin, making roster room for the returning Jay Beagle by loaning the rejuvenated Gagner once again to the Toronto Marlies — there was one move that didn’t need debating.
With one win in the last dozen games, the struggling club was looking for something — or somebody — to carry the Travis Green credo. Somebody to play smart and hard with the hope that it might translate to offence through transition.
That somebody proved to be newcomer Leivo and then Tyler Motte. But it was the lack of smarts that would overshadow all the good and expose a growing concern with a plummeting penalty kill that started the night ranked 23rd and only got worse.
Here’s what we learned as Brock Boeser was denied in the dying seconds, and the Canucks fell 3-2 to the Minnesota Wild at Rogers Arena:
The good: Leivo’s early arrival
Josh Leivo was running on adrenaline after being acquired Monday from the Toronto Maple Leafs in a swap for minor-league forward Michael Carcone.
The book on the winger was that given more than 10 minutes a night, he could showcase a strong stride, a head for the game and build on just four goals in 27 games as a bottom-six fit with the Leafs. It didn’t take long for Leivo to look like a top-six solution for the Canucks.
It was an early play that Green would laud. There was Boeser’s sideboards work, Elias Pettersson’s smart feed and Leivo’s ability to use a falling Jared Spurgeon as a partial screen to go stick side when Devan Dubnyk was guessing glove.
It was also Leivo’s ability to read plays, get to his check and learn that if he finds open ice, Pettersson is going to find him. Leivo would finish with three shots, five attempts, two hits and some first-unit power-play time in 16:53 of ice time.
The good: Motte’s major moxie
Tyler Motte made the club with a strong camp and preseason. He did something every night to get noticed and most of the time it was the grit, grind and the hits that got Green’s attention.
On Tuesday, it was Motte’s ability on the fourth line with Beagle and Tim Schaller to help break a 1-1 deadlock in the second period. With the Canucks needing 8:11 of the frame to muster a shot — and the Wild holding a decided 17-7 edge in shots — Motte was first denied on the short side after a strong foray to the net.
He came right back as the line sustained constant pressure. With Schaller controlling the puck behind the net and wheeling to the high slot for a shot, Motte got into position to sweep an effort under Dubnyk for his second goal in the last five games. He would finish with three shots and five hits.
The bad: Two penalties, two goals
Alex Edler was beat wide and took an interference minor in the second period. A minute later, Michael Del Zotto crosschecked Zach Parise to the ice and the Wild quickly turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead.
First, with a 5-on-3 advantage, Beagle lost the D-zone draw and Jason Zucker deflected Ryan Suter’s point shot. Less than a minute later, it was Zucker going high on Anders Nilsson.
The Canucks have given up 18 power-play goals in the last 20 games and the loss of Brandon Sutter and Beagle had something to do with that. But not everything.
The bad: Fifteen seconds, five touches
It sounds like a broken record, but you can understand the repeated refrain by Green.
The coach keeps harping on the little things because they continue to lead to big problems. And when it’s the supposedly wiser making mistakes, it only magnifies the message.
There were four veterans on the Canucks’ penalty kill in the first period and in just 15 seconds, there were five touches by the Wild that resulted in Parise tipping a Matt Dumba shot past Nilsson.
After Bo Horvat won the draw, there simply wasn’t enough of a corner-boards compete element by Edler and Chris Tanev to win the puck battle, and Markus Granlund didn’t get to the point to take away Dumba’s shooting lane.
The bad: Virtanen drilled, spilled
It didn’t look good when Jake Virtanen was drilled into the end boards late in the second period on a heavy Greg Pateryn hit from behind. The Wild defenceman was only assessed a boarding minor. It was a sore point.
The Canucks winger was slow to get up and left the game to be examined — possibly for concussion protocol — but did return for the third period.
NEXT GAME: Thursday
Nashville Predators vs. Vancouver Canucks
7 p.m., Rogers Arena, SNP, SN 650 AM
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