Alex Stalock #32 Connor Murphy #5 and Alex Vlasic #72 of the Chicago Blackhawks defend against Elias Pettersson #40 of the Vancouver Canucks during the first period of their NHL game at Rogers Arena. (Photo by Derek Cain/Getty Images)
by Kevin Woodley / NHL.com Independent Correspondent
April 6, 2023
VANCOUVER — Thatcher Demko made 33 saves for the Vancouver Canucks in a 3-0 win against the Chicago Blackhawks at Rogers Arena on Thursday.
It was Demko’s first shutout of the season and third of his NHL career. He hadn’t had a shutout since Dec. 6, 2021, against the Los Angeles Kings.
Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)
“I try to stop them all every night,” Demko said. “It doesn’t always work out that way, but it feels good.”
Demko is 9-4-2 with a .913 save percentage since returning Feb. 27 from a groin injury that kept him out almost three months.
“I definitely want to make sure my last few starts on this stretch here are sharp,” he said.
Andrei Kuzmenko, J.T. Miller and Vitali Kravtsov scored, and Akito Hirose had two assists for his first NHL points for the Canucks (35-36-7), who ended a four-game skid (0-2-2).
Elias Pettersson (37-61—98 in 76 GP) with his assist tonight, is two points away from becoming the sixth different player in Canucks franchise history to reach 100 points in a single season. The last player to do so was Daniel Sedin (41-63—104) in 2010-11.
Akito Hirose #36 of the Vancouver Canucks skates up ice during the first period of their NHL game against the Chicago Blackhawks at Rogers Arena. (Photo by Derek Cain/Getty Images)
Alex Stalock made 26 saves for the Blackhawks (25-47-6), who have lost nine of their past 10 games in regulation.
“Demko is a pretty good goalie,” said Blackhawks forward Jason Dickinson, who played with Vancouver last season before being traded to Chicago on Oct. 7, 2022. “It felt like we had a lot of chances, a lot of traffic to the net, a lot of tips, and still just couldn’t find a way to get that one to go home.”
Demko made his best save on a Blackhawks power play at 11:47 of the first period, sprawling across with his left pad to take a backdoor tap-in away from Boris Katchouk. He also stopped Lukas Reichel‘s low wrist shot on a breakaway from the hash marks midway through the second period.
Demko kicked out the right pad on a quick Taylor Raddysh shot from the slot 40 seconds into the third period.
“Some of the saves he made I think were Grade-A saves, but they’re routine,” Canucks coach Rick Tocchet said. “He just looked big in the net, like nothing was going to get by him. Even when they had a couple of backdoor chances, he was there, post to post.”
Andrei Kuzmenko #96 of the Vancouver Canucks skates back to the bench to celebrate his goal with teammates during the first period of their NHL game against the Chicago Blackhawks. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)
Kuzmenko put Vancouver ahead 1-0 at 16:16 of the first period with his 38th goal of the season, a wrist shot from just inside the blue line that beat Stalock on the glove side through a double screen.
Kravtsov, back in the lineup after being scratched for three straight games, made it 2-0 on the power play at 3:53 of the second when his backdoor pass attempt from the left face-off dot deflected in off Blackhawks defenseman Seth Jones.
“I just tried to make play, pass to Dries for the backdoor. Just try keep doing this, try to shoot more pucks, and maybe score more goals,” Kravtsov said. “Having points is always nice, but I have to play much better and keep building from that and try to show my effort. I want to stay on this team and in this league.”
Hirose had the secondary assist on both goals, his first NHL points in his third game since signing as a free agent on March 29 following his junior season at Minnesota State University.
“I’d probably say I’m more excited for getting the two points in the ‘W’ over getting my own two points,” Hirose said. “Just happy we got to win.”
Miller scored into an empty net with 25 seconds for the 3-0 final.
It was the ninth time Chicago was shut out this season.
“We just didn’t have any finish around the net, and the goalie was good as well,” Blackhawks coach Luke Richardson said. “After our power play in the second period, we had a real good buzz for about two or three shifts, but unfortunately, we just couldn’t get it across the line. We had a really good look on the backdoor a few times, and he’s a big goalie, and he got over there and played it well.”
It was also the Canucks’ first shutout since Demko’s previous one, a stretch of 133 games without one, setting a team record.
“I really wanted [Demko] and our goalies to get a shutout,” Tocchet said. “I think they deserved the shutout.”
Cole McWard #48 of the Vancouver Canucks plays the puck during the second period of their NHL game against the Chicago Blackhawks. (Photo by Derek Cain/Getty Images)
NOTES: Raddysh left with a lower-body injury with 8:55 remaining in the third period. “For us, that’s a big loss on the power play, and then 6-on-5,” Richardson said. “We’ll have to see how he is tomorrow.” … Canucks defenseman Cole McWard played 14:35 in his NHL debut after signing a two-year, entry-level contract Tuesday. The 21-year-old recently completed his sophomore season at Ohio State University with 21 points (nine goals, 12 assists in 39 games). … Vancouver sent defenseman Jack Rathbone to Abbotsford of the American Hockey League before the game.