Thatcher Demko couldn’t stop grinning the whole game in his first NHL start despite giving up the tying goals before the Vancouver Canucks won it in overtime.
Alex Edler scored 1:21 into the extra period and Demko finished with 26 saves in the Canucks’ wild 5-4 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday.
“I just tried to enjoy it,” the 22-year-old Demko said. “I had a blast. … Even when they scored on three consecutive shots I was still smiling. It was a lot of fun to be part of it.”
On the winning goal, Edler picked up a loose puck in the Blue Jackets’ end, waited patiently, then beat Columbus goalie Joonas Korpisalo with a shot to the far side.
“I knew we had a 2-on-1,” Edler said. “I wanted to pass it but it just wasn’t there.”
Jussi Jokinen had a goal and two assists against his former team, and Darren Archibald, Bo Horvat and Nikolay Goldobin also scored for the Canucks, who tied a season-high with their fourth straight win and fifth in six games after a seven-game skid.
The Blue Jackets erased a 4-1 deficit by scoring three goals in 2:37 late in the third period to tie it.
Pierre-Luc Dubois started the comeback with a power-play goal with just under four minites remaining, Zach Werenski pulled Columbus within one with 1:37 left and Cam Atkinson tied it 16 seconds later.
“We’re a team that regardless of the score we are never out of the fight,” said Atkinson. “We’re still fighting for our lives, so we can’t afford to take our foot off the gas pedal for a second. When we did, it showed.”
Seth Jones had a goal and three assists, Artemi Panari had four assists and Korpisalo finished with 24 saves for the Blue Jackets, who are 12-1-1 in their last 14 games as they try to pass Pittsburgh for second place in the Metropolitan Division.
Columbus coach John Tortorella was happy his team didn’t quit.
“There were a number of guys that struggled, some big guys that struggled, but those last few minutes some big guys stood up,” he said. “No matter what happened we found a way to get a point.”
Demko, picked 36th overall in the 2014 draft, was called up from Utica of the AHL because backup goalie Anders Nilsson has the flu. He arrived in Vancouver late Friday night, then was in net for the game which started at 1 p.m. Vancouver time.
“My body was pretty confused,” he said. “I was almost too tired to be nervous.”
Demko looked tight early in the game. Just 19 seconds into the first period Atkinson blasted a shot that hit the crossbar behind him. Four shots hit the post.
“I think the posts are bigger up here than they are in the AHL,” Demko said.
By the second period, Demko seemed more relaxed and looked sharp getting a pad on Atkinson’s shot during a 3-on-1 Columbus breakaway.
“I thought he looked good,” Canucks coach Travis Green said. “I don’t think he looked out of place. … He’s confident enough to do what he does.”
Jokinen gave Vancouver a 3-1 lead at 5:14 of the third period. He took Jake Virtanen’s pass from behind the net and sent a shot over Korpisalo’s blocker. It was Jokinen’s third goal since coming to Vancouver along with center Tyler Motte at the trade deadline in a deal that sent Thomas Vanek to Columbus.
“Every time you play against your old team you want to show they made a mistake letting you go,” Jokinen said. “For sure I had extra motivation.”
He also assisted on Horvat’s goal later in the period, giving him five assists and eight points in 11 games with the Canucks.
The Canucks scored goals 1:44 apart in the second period to take a 2-1 lead.
Archibald tied it at 11:53. His shot from the faceoff circle looked to be tipped by a Columbus defenseman. Korpisalo still managed to get a piece of the puck but it went off his glove and into the net. Ashton Saunter, another callup from Utica, earned an assist for his first NHL point.
Goldobin put Vancouver ahead on a pretty give-and-go with Jokinen, scoring his sixth of the season on a sharp-angle shot.
The Blue Jackets opened the scoring at 13:55 of the first period, just seven seconds after Daniel Sedin was called for tripping. Jones scored after taking a pass from Atkinson and ripping a shot from the blue line. Demko looked slow at moving across his crease on the play.
NOTES: Jones’ two-point night gave him 54 points, setting a Columbus record for a defenseman. … Blue Jacket D Markus Nutivaara left the game in the second period with an upper-body injury. … Sedin’s 54 penalty minutes is the most in his 17-year career with the Canucks. He had 50 minutes in 2007-08. … The last time Vancouver won four consecutive games was Oct. 20-26.
Blue Jackets: Host Detroit on Tuesday night.
Canucks: Host Vegas on Tuesday night.