Before Game 5 on Tuesday, the last time Thatcher Demko had suited up and started in goal for the Canucks was March 10.
He didn’t play in the exhibition game against the Jets. He didn’t play against the Wild in the qualifying round. He didn’t mind Vancouver’s net in the team’s first-round dethroning of the 2019 Stanley Cup champion Blues. And he didn’t see any action in Games 1-4 against the Golden Knights.
But in Game 5, with his team down 3-1 in the best-of-seven second-round series, he stopped 42 shots to backstop a 2-1 win. He followed up that performance Thursday night in Game 6 with a 48-save shutout to send the series to a winner-take-all Game 7 on Friday.
“Thatcher’s been our MVP both nights,” said forward Jake Virtanen, who scored the game-winner in the Canucks’ 4-0 victory. “He’s standing on his head back there and he’s making some amazing saves, keeping us in games, and you can see the confidence he has back there. He’s just calm and collected, playing his game . . . he’s just a smart goaltender. He’s making a lot of good saves and making it easy for us to win games.”
It wasn’t an easy task for Demko, though.
While head coach Travis Green thought his team played better in Game 6 than it did in Game 5, Vegas dominated Corsi For Percentage for the game (63.53 percent) and especially in the third period (70.83) (per Natural Stat Trick). It also had 22 shots in that final frame along with a 76.92 percentage for Scoring Chances For and four High-Danger Chances.
For the game, Demko stopped eight high-danger shots, seven mid-danger shots and 14 low-danger shots.
“I just wanted to come in and try to help out any way I could,” said Demko, who now has made 90 stops — and allowed just one goal — in two games. His 48 saves in Game 6, according to Sportsnet Stats, set a playoff record for most saves in a shutout by a rookie.
“We were down 3-1,” he added. “Our goal was to win one game at a time, eventually get to a Game 7, which we’ve done.”
The Canucks and Golden Knights will hit the ice for a deciding Game 7 in less than 24 hours, and while Green wouldn’t show his hand regarding whether Demko or Jacob Markstrom will be in net, Demko feels good and ready to go.
“That’s how college was for me, every weekend was back-to-back,” said the former Boston College netminder. “Through pro, I think every guy’s played back-to-back several times, so it’s nothing new for anyone, really, in pro hockey. We’ve just got to prepare the same way. Maybe guys may be a little bit tired but once the game starts, guys will be feeling it and get into it.”
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