Vancouver Canucks forward J.T. Miller says sometimes the key to an effective power play is simple — just shoot.
Miller knows better than most. He had two of Vancouver's three power-play goals in the Canucks' 5-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday.
"It doesn't always work how you plan it but we just kept doing a lot of the same things. We shot a couple more pucks and I think it was just a matter of time," Miller said.
Elias Pettersson and Alex Edler each had a goal and a pair of assists for the Canucks (3-2-0) in the effort. Troy Stecher also scored and Brock Boeser tallied three assists.
Dylan Larkin put away the Red Wings' lone goal and netminder Jonathan Bernier stopped 27-of-32 shots for Detroit (3-3-0).
Thatcher Demko had 26 saves for Vancouver to collect his first win of the season in his first start.
The 23-year-old had to rally back after allowing Larkin's goal on the first shot of the game.
"I think every goalie's been through that. So just kind of drawing on past experiences. I felt good today and didn't want that one to ruin my night," he said.
Demko was also tested in the third period after both Miller and fellow Canucks forward Jay Beagle were sent to the box for tripping within 23 seconds of each other.
Detroit's Anthony Mantha sent a pair of rockets soaring towards the Vancouver netminder, but the goalie credited his teammates for killing off the penalty.
"Given the circumstance, 5-on-3, to give up just a couple of shots, those shots were pretty good to give up from the areas," Demko said. "And guys are blocking shots, laying out. You can tell guys are buying in, sacrificing and doing what it takes to win games. So just caps off to those guys."
Tension erupted with nine seconds left in the second penalty when Mantha and Brandon Sutter started a dust up near centre ice.
Mantha head butted Sutter in the face, spurring several others to pair off.
Once officials had calmed the melee, Mantha headed to the box for tripping and un-sportsman-like conduct, while Sutter was called for roughing.
Detroit's special teams weren't good enough on Tuesday, said coach Jeff Blashill.
"We've talked about it before, we're not going to win games if the special teams aren't good enough," he said. "Obviously if you give up three power-play goals, you get a 5-on-3 and don't score, special teams have to be better than they were."
The result was a tough one to take, Larkin said.
"If we play like that every night it is going to be the same result," he said. "We're not good enough to come out and just throw our sticks out there and play hockey. We need to battle. We need to block shots, the PK needs to be good, we need to win battles in front of our net, and we didn't do any of that tonight and its frustrating."
The Wings gave up another power play before the third period was through when Jacob de la Rose was called for holding.
Pettersson was hauled down along the boards early in the advantage, but got up and rejoined the rush, setting up the final goal of the night.
The Swedish centre patiently passed the puck around until he found Miller in the slot. Miller wasted no time in firing a wrist shot past Bernier to seal the score at 5-1.
After starting the season with a pair of road losses, Vancouver has won three games in a row, matching last year's best streak.
While the string of victories should boost the group's confidence, the team is focused on adding to the total, Miller said.
"I know the guys are probably looking more forward to what we can do this year than looking back on last year. And so far it's been good," said the forward, who was dealt from Tampa Bay to the Canucks in late June.
"We did a lot of good things in the first two games and I think we deserved better. And I think we've really been baring down on our chances a little bit more in the last couple of games, obviously, to get the number of goals that we're getting. It's a lot of good things."
The team struggled to burry the puck in the first two outings of the year but has since put up decisive wins, including an 8-2 decision over the L.A. Kings.
The team's coming together and starting to find its game, Pettersson said.
"We're quicker to the puck, we make quicker decisions," he said. "And we're there for each other all the time. That's what you need to have to win hockey games in this league."
The Canucks embark on a four-game road swing, starting with a visit to the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues on Thursday. The Red Wings play the Flames in Calgary the same night.
NOTES: Alex Biega made his Red Wings debut. The former Canucks defenceman was sent down to Vancouver's American Hockey League team in Utica, N.Y., after training camp, then traded to Detroit earlier this month. ... Red Wings defenceman Danny DeKeyser was scratched from the lineup with an upper-body injury. ... Six of Vancouver's goals this season have come from defencemen.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 15, 2019.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press