VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Canucks put on their work boots Saturday — literally.
Coming into yet another battle against the Calgary Flames, the team was on a six-game losing skid. There had been signs of improvement in Vancouver's last two outings, but the results had been the same.
The squad opted to change things up on Saturday, ditching the traditional rink-arrival attire — suits and ties — for something a bit more casual.
"We made a thing that we all had to wear work boots coming into the rink and I think it showed on the ice that we were ready to work," said defenceman Tyler Myers.
Jackets, hoodies and toques replaced the usual suits and ties in a sartorial swap that seemed to pay off on the ice.
The Canucks bumped their slump, earning a 3-1 victory over the Calgary Flames (7-6-1).
Coach Travis Green said he didn't know his team would be ditching their formal look ahead of the game.
"I found out watching Hockey Night in Canada, saw some of the pictures of our guys coming in. But I liked it. They would have got my blessing on it," he said. "Maybe the coaches need to get in on it, too.”
Vancouver (7-11-0) was dominant from the start on Saturday, peppering Flames netminder Jacob Markstrom with nine shots in the first eight minutes of the game and outshooting Calgary 20-4 across the period.
The Canucks weren't looking at the shot clock, focusing instead on playing well, said Quinn Hughes.
“We just wanted the result. We kept playing, didn’t fall asleep," he said. "And we played a good game.”
Hughes finally beat Markstrom 9:27 into the second period on Vancouver's 29th shot of the night.
The 21-year-old defenceman picked the puck off a Flames' stick at the Calgary blue line and appeared poised to pass before releasing a bomb from the low hash marks. His second goal of the season put the Canucks up 1-0.
Sam Bennett tied things up for the Flames less than two minutes later, and Myers delivered the game winner with just over five minutes to go on the game clock.
The veteran defenceman's excitement was evident as he pumped his fist and yelled.
“The emotion, it was just because we got the lead at the end of the game and it’s been awhile," Myers said.
"I thought we deserved a better fate in the last couple of games. We stuck with it, we came out hard tonight, played a real consistent game, (goalie Thatcher Demko) made some big saves for us. It was a huge win for the group.”
Brandon Sutter added some insurance for Vancouver with an empty-net strike after Calgary pulled Markstrom with just over two minutes to go.
The Flames' goalie stopped 43-of-45 shots on the night.
"Vancouver is a desperate team and they threw a lot of pucks at the net and there's a lot of volume," Markstrom said. "But, you know, at the end of the day it's my job to stop the puck and it's frustrating for me to feel like I'm playing a really good game and then five minutes left not come up with one more save to at least take it to overtime and get a point and give the team a chance."
Calgary coach Geoff Ward said his squad simply wasn't competitive on Saturday.
"We got what we deserved tonight," he said. "We got out worked, out skated, out competed. So usually when that happens, you don't get the result you want."
Vancouver kept the Flames hemmed in their own zone for much of the game, and didn't allow goalie Demko to be tested until 11 minutes in when he stopped a tip by Matthew Tkachuk.
The goaltender had 18 saves for Vancouver.
Demko said it can be hard to maintain positivity when a team is on a losing streak, but the Canucks have done a good job of trying to bring fun to the rink recently.
"Not getting the result’s tough, but trend in the right direction, we can build off those things and keep high emotion in the room and have a little fun with it," he said. "And I thought the guys came to the rink ready to play tonight and it showed.”
The two sides will face off again in Vancouver on Monday.
NOTES: Calgary's Mikael Backlund was injured clocking a shot in the first period and did not return. … Flames defenceman Connor Mackey made his NHL debut. The 24-year-old signed with Calgary last March after playing three seasons at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 13. 2021.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press