Although the Canucks are unpredictable, Pettersson’s credibility continues

DENVER — When Luke Schenn saved his National Hockey League career in his first appearance with the Vancouver Canucks four years ago, Elias Pettersson was just a rookie — a lanky, puck-skills dynamo on his way to a Calder Trophy.

“I don’t want to get ahead of myself,” Schenn said Wednesday, “but I remember some of the games that Petey played, and for whatever reason, the way he played, the style, the ability, I just thought: Pavel Datsyuk. That’s what I thought. Obviously, he becoming a better 200-foot player.

After telling Canucks coach Bruce Boudreau he was ready for more defense, Pettersson was set to play head-to-head Wednesday night against Colorado Avalanche superstar Nathan MacKinnon and the talented players surrounding him. That match was a tie for the Canucks, which was a big reason why the team was able to beat the Avalanche 4-3.

After blowing another two-goal lead in the third period in Vegas’ 5-4 loss to the Golden Knights, the Canucks stormed back in the final 20 minutes — high — with goals from Ethan Bear and former Avalanche forward Sheldon Drees. won for the third time in four games.

They are confusing. For the Canucks, no leader feels safe, but several games are not won. Twenty games into the National Hockey League season, the Canucks are a riot to watch because of their unpredictability.

But Pettersson’s transition into a two-way role that Boudreau could try to expand on could make the team more reliable.

Pettersson has some work to do before former Detroit Red Wings big man Pavel Datsyuk, who won three Selke Trophies and was a finalist for three other trophies. But Pettersson is already the team’s best two-way center.

He asked Boudreau for an expanded role before the season and has reminded his coach several times since then that he feels ready.

“I said if he wants to play me there, I’m ready, but obviously the coaches make those decisions,” Pettersson said after the Canucks’ most impressive win ever. “I had a chance tonight and I just tried to make the most of it.

“I love it. I want to play against the best line, the best players.”

Joined by regular wingers Ilya Mikheyev and Andrey Kuzmenko, Pettersson played against MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Artturi Lehkonen from the start. The Canuck trio scored just 21 seconds into the opening period when Pettersson returned a pass to Mikheyev.

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Rantanen tied it with his skate, Devon Toews directing a centering pass past Canuck goaltender Spencer Martin at 11:27. But that would be the only even-strength goal Vancouver surrendered.

Rantanen and Makar scored on the Avalanche’s NHL-leading power play, the latter giving Colorado a 3-2 lead at 15:59 of the second period.

But Dries, who left the Avalanche to sign a free-agent deal with the Canucks before last season, tied the score at 3-3 when he tapped in a rebound off Francouz’s pad after a smart lift off Toews’ stick at 5:07 of the third period. the puck to reach the net.

As the teams skated four on four at the 12-minute mark, Aiyu took a high shot off Mikheyev’s screen.

“I really appreciate my time here,” Dries said. “But it was just a different opportunity and I wanted to come to Vancouver. It’s always nice to score against your old team. It was time for a gut check for us.”

The Canucks held a one-goal lead over the final eight minutes, Martin finished with 33 saves and Pettersson looked more confident that he could check the NHL’s best players.

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“You know, I thought he was good,” Boudreau said when comparing Pettersson to MacKinnon. “And I say that (because) it’s not just MacKinnon. Makar and Toews are always with them. I think Petey wanted the challenge and I think he did a really good job.”

The Canucks travel to Vegas to play the Golden Knights on Saturday, then wrap up their three-game road trip with the San Jose Sharks on Sunday.

Who knows what to expect?

“I know one thing,” Boudreau said. “They go into every game thinking they’re going to work hard and win. Sometimes it doesn’t. When we start out, often when we get the lead, we hold the bars too tight. It needs a few (wins). If we get lucky sometime on the weekend, I think the confidence snowballs and all of a sudden you start going well.”

“You take one on the chin and you hit the third lap and guys come out the next day and they want to improve and they want to get better,” Schenn said. “We can’t fix anything from the past, but we have 62 games left. One thing is that we haven’t closed the game as much as we would like, but we are in every game. And every game feels like a win, that’s a good thing.”

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