‘We should go at them again (Tuesday) and go harder. We weren’t perfect by any means tonight and we can be even better — which is great.’ — J.T. Miller

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You’re not supposed to critique a win.

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However, these aren’t normal circumstances where all that matters is the end result.

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A spirited third-period rally by the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday before a raucous crowd avoided the dreaded series opening home-ice loss.

It would have invited comparisons to what occurred here in 2015, which led to a six-game exit to the Calgary Flames, but Sunday turned into a testament to Rick Tocchet’s belief system.

“We can play better and that will come,” the head coach said before a rousing, confidence-building 4-2 victory over the Nashville Predators. “I know we’re going to play good tonight and as a coach you have that gut feeling.

“We expect to win.”

Tocchet also knows the post-season is about adjustments and his club will need to make a few systems and awareness alternations before Game 2 on Tuesday.

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The Canucks can’t take needless penalties, they can’t wait to push the pace and need to dictate more of the play and forecheck consistently.

That may seem somewhat harsh.

J.T. Miller was a beast. Dakota Joshua scored twice and had six hits. Thatcher Demko was solid.

Elias Lindholm matched up well against Ryan O’Reilly, scored to draw the Canucks even at 1-1 and started the sequence on the winning goal off a boards battle — even though he wasn’t credited with an assist.

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Kiefer Sherwood of the Predators and Tyler Myers of the Canucks battle on Sunday at Rogers Arena. Photo by Derek Cain /Getty Images

The collective resilience that included a pair of goals in a 12-second span of the final period to set a franchise record and erase a 2-1 deficit was impressive.

The Canucks have lost just nine games on home ice this season in regulation time and only the Colorado Avalanche and Edmonton Oilers have equalled that mark. To maintain it, there are some needed tweaks in store.

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1. Stay out of the penalty box

Whether it was the ramped-up atmosphere, nerves, or just bad decisions, the Canucks had too many self-inflicted wounds. Their four penalties were undisciplined and unnecessary

Teddy Blueger took an interference minor in the defensive zone in a 1-1 game. It was a double-whammy. He’s on the first penalty kill pairing and O’Reilly was left along to give the Predators the lead again.

Carson Soucy followed with a holding penalty in the defensive zone and Filip Hronek was flagged for holding the stick behind his net. And Phil Di Giuseppe took a tripping minor in the third.

“They were unfortunate penalties — I don’t think we were undisciplined,” said Tocchet. “Things just happen sometimes. We’re going to be physical and we’ve got to make sure that we clean up some of those penalties.” 

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Tyler Myers delivered heavy early hits and seemed to understand the line of what was going to be called Sunday and what he could get away with. And that’s hard for a big defender.

“A lot of good tonight and lot of things to improve on,” he said. “And it (hitting) is something I have to think about. I definitely don’t want to go into a hit with two hands on my stick and I seemed to get called a lot for that this year.

“It’s definitely a focus. You want to limit penalties in the post-season because special teams are so big to determine winning and losing games. You definitely have to think about it.”

The Canucks also need to drive the net more to draw penalties. They went 0-for-2 on the power play and managed just two shots.

2. Hit the net, don’t miss the net

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The Canucks were held to four shots in the opening period and had nine miss the mark, while four more were blocked. ‘

They rallied back in the second frame and held an 8-1 advantage at one point and finished with 21 shots, while 15 were blocked and 20 went wide

“Sometimes, we’re a little too fine on the shots and that’s something we can be better at,” said Tocchet.

Pius Suter, Quinn Hughes and Nikita Zadorov led with three shots apiece. Miller had no shots on nine attempts — four blocks and five misses — and Elias Pettersson had four misses, but also two good scoring chances.

So what should the Canucks expect Tuesday?

“Just expect a response, but I’m not going to wait for them to respond,” said Miller. “We should go at them again and go harder. We weren’t perfect by any means tonight and we can be even better — which is great.

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“They have guys who have been through this before and we need to understand that we need a good start and settle into the game earlier.”

3. Win more crucial 1-on-1 battles

The Canucks outhit the Predators 39-32. Zadorov and Lindholm had five hits and Miller four.

“There’s another level for us,” said Tocchet. “I think our edge battles off the draws is one thing we have to improve on. Some of the chances they got where off their draws and that’s one of the things we’ve got to work on.

“And it’s not two or three guys, it’s a team effort. And it’s uncomfortable. I’m a big body-position-first guy on the puck. We got better at it, which is good.

“That’s why we acquired Lindholm. He had a really good 200-foot game knows what to do in pressure situations.”

“The way we played in the third, that’s the way we want to play,” said Lindholm. “There were shifts where we hemmed them in and spent a lot of time in the offensive zone. That’s our identity and we can take it from there.”


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