Goaltender Thatcher Demko went from bench riding to create the Storybook playoff season in 72 hours and he is taking the Vancouver Cancs for a ride.
It was Demko’s second playoff start, with 42 shots on hand to secure a 2-1 victory in Game 5.
If you count the five shots he faced during the mop-up in Game 1, Vegas fired 95 puck at him and Demco 94 stopped.
“Thatcher was our MVP for two nights,” Vancouver forward Jake Virtanen said, scoring the game-winning goal in less than three minutes in the first period.
“He’s standing there with his head back and he’s making some amazing savings, he’s putting us in games. You can see the confidence he’s back in there. He’s calm and gathered, he’s playing his game.
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Regco replaces regular starter Jacob Marstrom, who was considered unfit to play. The NHL has not released injury details.
For days last month, Demco was on the bench, with Markstrom starting 14 games in 29 days, managing 30 shots well most nights and posting an 8-6 record.
Denco’s last start before post – season was canceled on March 10, two days before the NHL’s regular season was to end, and later due to COVID – 19.
“I came in and tried to help in any way I could,” Demco said. “We lost 3-1. Our goal is to win one game at a time and eventually reach Game 7.”
The decisive seventh game will take place on Saturday.
Robin Lehner made 19 saves on the net for Vegas and is now 7-4 in the 2020 postseason.
Golden Knights forward Max Pasioretti was praised for Demco’s performance, but expected chinks to form in his armor.
“We played a lot at their end tonight, hopefully that gives us some energy to know we’ve bounced or two away without scoring a few goals,” Pascioretti said. “That being said, their goalie is feeling right now.”
Western Conference seed Golden Knights will return to the tournament for the first time on Thursday.
JT Miller and Quinn Hughes each had a goal and an assist for Vancouver.
Miller scored 2-0 in the third period, spinning the wheel in the right face-off circle and pushing Puck past Lehner. This is the first goal of his series. He has six goals in the post season. Hughes received his 14th assist in the playoffs.
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Hughes scored his second goal of the post-season, shooting a slap shot from a point that crossed the screened Lehner. Miller received his 12th assist in the playoffs.
Captain Bo Horwat scored in the empty net for his playoff-leading 10th goal.
For many Conks, this is unfamiliar territory. Vancouver has not been in the playoffs since 2015 and it will be Game 7 after losing to the Boston Bruins in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.
Half of the current Canac players are in their first NHL playoffs, now they are in their first Game 7.
“As a kid, no one really talked about Game 1 or Game 2. I think everyone was dreaming about Game 7,” said Rookie and Calder Trophy candidate Hughes.
“To give us a chance after a 3-1 defeat, I think we’re proud of ourselves (but) we’re not satisfied.”
This is the territory known to the Golden Knights. The San Jose Sharks were sent off in seven games in the first round last spring after going to the Stanley Cup Finals in the spring of 2018.
All Western conference games are played without spectators at Rogers Place. The Final-Four Series and the Stanley Cup Final also play in Edmonton.