EDMONTON — Vancouver Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko added to an already deep collection of highlight reel-worthy saves on Saturday.
The 25-year-old netminder stopped 31 shots, including a breakaway chance by Connor McDavid, as Vancouver downed the Edmonton Oilers 4-1. It was Demko's 15th win of the season.
There's really no limit on Demko's potential, said Canucks coach Travis Green.
"He’s just got to keep progressing. He showed us glimpses of it last year in the (playoff) bubble at the end with how good he can play and he’s had a good season again this year," Green said.
"He’s a young guy, still young for goalies. I expect him to keep progressing and I think he’s got a chance to be one of the best goalies in the league."
Demko kept the score tied at 1-1 Saturday with a stellar stop midway through the second period.
The Oilers were awarded their second power play of the game when Zack MacEwen hauled down Joakim Nygard. Alex Chiasson's snapshot from the bottom of the slot nearly restored Edmonton's lead, but the Canucks netminder swept it off the goal line with his right pad.
"I got my eyes on it, kind of noticed he was in a good enough spot to raise it so I was just trying to elevate my leg, too, a little bit to help give me a chance to get a piece of it," Demko said of the save. "It was kind of sitting there on the goal line for a split second. Luckily we were able to live to see another day."
On the Oilers bench, coach Dave Tippett and his team took a good look at video of the play and decided they couldn't tell definitively if the puck had crossed the line.
"When you look at it real close, it wasn’t in," Tippett said.
The result snapped a two-game losing skid for the Canucks (22-28-3), who linger at the bottom of the North Division standings with three games left to play.
Demko said his team gave themselves a chance by going into the third period tied 1-1.
"I thought we were working hard and spent a lot more time in their zone compared to some other games," he said. "Sticking with it and finding a result is always rewarding."
Saturday's game was Edmonton's final tune-up before the playoffs. The Oilers (35-19-2) will turn their attention to Wednesday's first-round playoff series opener against the visiting Winnipeg Jets.
"That game was a win if nobody got hurt and nobody got hurt so we’re taking a win," Tippett said. "Other than that, it was a game that had no meaning to it from our side so we got through it fine."
Vancouver broke the game open midway through the third period.
Matthew Highmore put away his second goal of the day with 6:33 left to play. He sent a backhand shot towards the Edmonton net from the top of the slot and Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen fumbled with the puck before it dribbled over the goal line.
The goal, Highmore's third of the season, sealed the score at 4-1.
The Chicago Blackhawks dealt the 25-year-old forward to Vancouver at the trade deadline, and Green said he's brought speed to the Canucks lineup.
"He’s a smart player, he’s a good penalty killer, a reliable guy that thinks two ways," the coach said.
Highmore's added to the team both on and off the ice, said Canucks captain Bo Horvat.
"He’s tenacious on pucks, he’s good in his own end and obviously you saw tonight that he can put the puck in the net when he wants to," Horvat said. "He’s been a great addition to our group, a good guy in the locker room and we’re happy to have him."
An odd-man rush saw Highmore blast a shot up and over Koskinen's glove 9:13 into the third period on Saturday.
Just 16 seconds later, Travis Boyd snapped a shot past the Edmonton netminder from the middle of the slot to make it 3-1.
McDavid had a prime chance to add to his NHL-leading 105 points in the third period when he picked up a Canucks turnover in the neutral zone and sped away for a breakaway.
The Oilers captain attempted to put a wrist shot in from the top of the crease but Demko made a blocker save.
Horvat also scored for Vancouver, burying a short-handed shot early in the second period, and J.T. Miller notched a pair of assists.
Oilers defenceman Adam Larsson opened the scoring with his fourth goal of the season midway through the opening frame.
Koskinen had 37 saves for Edmonton .
The Canucks will host the Calgary Flames on Sunday, kicking off a three-game series that will close out the season for both sides.
Notes: Edmonton was 0 for 3 on the power play and Vancouver went 0 for 2. ... The Oilers won the season series between the two sides 6-4. ... McDavid and Leon Draisaitl each had an assist on Larsson's goal, extending their point streaks to eight games. McDavid has 21 points (five goals, 16 assists) over the stretch and Draisaitl has 17 points (7-10). ... Slater Koekkoek returned to the Oilers lineup after missing 20 games with a broken collarbone.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 15, 2021.