Goaltender Thatcher Demko keeps smiling in nail-biting NHL debut, Canucks win - InfoNews

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Goaltender Thatcher Demko keeps smiling in nail-biting NHL debut, Canucks win

Vancouver Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko, back centre, and his teammates celebrate after defeating the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-4 in overtime NHL hockey action, in Vancouver on Saturday, March 31, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
March 31, 2018 - 6:03 PM

VANCOUVER - It was a wild ride with a dangerous swerve toward hitting the ditch, but goaltender Thatcher Demko couldn't stop grinning the whole game.

What looked like an easy 4-1 win for Demko in his first NHL start almost turned into disaster as the Vancouver Canucks needed overtime to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-4 Saturday afternoon.

"I just tried to enjoy it," said Demko, a 22-year-old native of San Diego, Calif. "I had a blast.

"Even when they scored on three consecutive shots I was still smiling. It was a lot of fun to be part of it."

The Blue Jackets erased a three-goal deficit late in the third period by scoring three times in 2:37. Defenceman Alex Elder finally won it with 1:21 gone in the overtime.

Edler picked up a loose puck in the Blue Jackets' end, waited, then beat Columbus goaltender Joonas Korpisalo with a shot to the far side.

"I knew we had a two-on-one," said Edler. "I wanted to pass it but it just wasn't there."

Demko, picked 36th overall in the 2014 draft, was called up from the Utica Comets of the American Hockey League because backup goalie Anders Nilsson has the flu. He arrived in Vancouver late Friday night, then was in net for the game which started at 1 p.m. Vancouver time.

"My body was pretty confused," he said. "I was almost too tired to be nervous."

Demko finished the game with 26 saves. He looked tight early and on the first Columbus goal was slow getting across the crease. By the second period Demko was more relaxed and looked sharp stopping Cam Atkinson a three-on-one breakaway.

Demko also was lucky. Just 19 seconds into the game Atkinson blasted a shot that hit the crossbar. Four shots hit the post.

"I think the posts are bigger up here than they are in the AHL," he said.

Head coach Travis Green liked Demko's game.

"I thought he looked good," said Green. "I don't think he looked out of place.

"He's confident enough to do what he does."

Jussi Jokinen, in his first game against his old team, had a goal and two assists for Vancouver.

Darren Archibald, Bo Horvat and Nikolay Goldobin also scored for the Canucks (30-40-9), who won their fourth consecutive game to tie their longest winning streak of the season. Vancouver has won five of its past six games after losing seven straight

Jokinen has three goals and five assists in 11 games since coming to Vancouver along with centre Tyler Motte at the trade deadline in a deal that sent Thomas Vanek to Columbus.

"Every time you play against your old team you want to show they made a mistake letting you go," he said. "For sure I had extra motivation."

The Columbus comeback started when Pierre-Luc Dubois scored on the power play at 16:02. Zach Werenski made it 4-3 at 18:23 then Atkinson tied the game 16 seconds later.

"We're a team that regardless of the score we are never out of the fight," said Atkinson. "We're still fighting for our lives, so we can't afford to take our foot off the gas pedal for a second. When we did, it showed."

Seth Jones had a power-play goal and three assists for Columbus (44-29-6), while Artemi Pararin had four assists. The Blue Jackets, who are 12-1-1 in their last 14 games, are in a battle with Pittsburgh for second place in the Metropolitan Division.

Columbus coach John Tortorella was happy his team didn't quit.

"There were a number of guys that struggled, some big guys that struggled, but those last few minutes some big guys stood up," he said. "No matter what happened we found a way to get a point."

With the Canucks already out of the playoffs Demko will be returning to Utica to help the Comets in the AHL's post-season. He returns with an idea about what skills he must improve on over the summer if he hopes to make the Canucks next season.

"It's a lot faster (in the NHL), the pucks are moving quicker, guys are making plays," he said. "I feel like one of the biggest things I will be working on is just making reads a little bit quicker, realizing potential threats away from the puck a little quicker. Just a ton of stuff I'm excited I was able to realize and things I can take into summer and really work on."

NOTES: Canuck goaltender Jacob Markstrom is 4-0-0 in his last five starts and has a 1.25 goals-against average and .962 save percentage. … Jones' four-point night gave him 54 points, setting a Columbus record for points by a defenceman. … Blue Jacket defenceman Markus Nutivaara left the game in the second period with an upper-body injury. … Daniel Sedin's 54 penalty minutes is the most in his 17-year career with the Canucks. He had 50 minutes in 2007-08. … The last time Vancouver won four consecutive games was between Oct. 20 and Oct. 26.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2018
The Canadian Press

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