The Vancouver Canucks could drive themselves crazy trying to figure out all the playoff possibilities. Instead, they are trying to keep things simple.
“Every game is a must-win. You want to give yourself the best chance possible,” Canucks forward Tanner Pearson said. “Obviously we have games in hand, which could be the key for us. We’ve got to keep pushing, take it one game at a time and keep on staying in the win column.”
The Canucks will travel to Ottawa for games Monday and Wednesday after splitting a two-game series at home with the Senators.
Vancouver (19-19-3, 41 points) has won three of four games since being put on pause for nearly a month because of a COVID-19 outbreak in which 22 players and four staff members tested positive.
The Canucks are sixth in the seven-team North Division, eight points behind Montreal for the fourth and final playoff berth with five games in hand. Calgary is in fifth place, with four more points than the Canucks and having played six more games.
Vancouver snapped Ottawa’s three-game winning streak with a 4-2 decision Saturday as Pearson scored the tiebreaking goal with 6:15 remaining in regulation and J.T. Miller added an empty-netter.
“It was a gutsy effort, some pretty timely goals,” said Canucks goaltender Braden Holtby, who made 26 saves -- including a penalty shot. “It was one of those games that can go against you pretty quick.”
The last-place Senators (17-27-4, 38 points) had to dip into their taxi squad after goaltender Anton Forsberg, the expected starter, suffered a lower-body injury during warmups.
Matt Murray started and stopped 12 of 13 shots before leaving with an injury early in the second period. Marcus Hogberg made 18 saves in relief.
“Things happen in the NHL and you got to adjust,” Senators coach D.J. Smith said. “But I thought we played good enough probably to get a point. We just played a little too wide open when the game was tied and it cost us.”
With no emergency backup goaltenders this season because of the taxi squad and the pandemic, Senators forward Artem Anisimov donned goalie pads just in case Hogberg got hurt.
That provided some comic relief for the Senators despite the loss.
“Definitely loosens up things a little bit after the game in the locker room to see him dressed up as a goalie,” Ottawa defenceman Thomas Chabot said. “It’s weird stuff happening, guys get hurt, and obviously to see him dressed up, it was pretty funny. The guys definitely had a good little laugh at it, but I mean it’s good on him, good for ‘Arty’ being ready to play goalie in case we needed him.”
Smith said Anisimov would have been the last resort.
“We didn’t have anyone left,” Smith said. “A lot of people would think Zac Bierk, the goalie coach who played in the NHL, but he had three hip surgeries, he’s got a bad ear from a shot in the head as a player, so he’s not an option. I know (general manager) Pierre Dorion played some net at the Christmas skate a couple years ago. We were mulling that over. It’s a tough situation.”
Senators forward Colin White was asked for a scouting report on where to shoot against Anisimov.
“Anywhere, I would think,” White said.