With a depleted lineup to match the 50-per-cent seating capacity limit at Rogers Arena, the Vancouver Canucks conjured one of their most surprising performances yet under newish coach Bruce Boudreau.
But they took a point from the powerful Florida Panthers despite missing five key players in COVID-19 protocol and giving goalie Spencer Martin his first National Hockey League start in five years.
The 26-year-old journeyman, elevated from minor-league goalie to NHL starter by positive COVID tests to Canuck star Thatcher Demko and backup Jaroslav Halak, stopped 33 of 34 shots Friday against the league’s highest-scoring team before losing 2-1 in a shootout in Vancouver’s first home game since Dec. 14.
“Just to know how hard it is to get to this level, the experiences that it takes to get opportunities,” Martin said after the game. “It's hard to put (into words)… but it felt incredible to get the opportunity.”
“I love when American League players -- and I played there for a while -- get opportunities and show what they can do,” Boudreau said. “A lot of times, there's a lot of good players and they get overlooked. . . and they're really good players. And so, for Spencer to come in and play a game like that against the highest-scoring team in the league, I thought it was really impressive.
“You're playing a really great team and you're missing a lot of your better players. But everybody stepped up to the plate. Some of the guys played more minutes, I'm sure, than they've ever played at the NHL level before and they played good. When you lose, you lose. But when you get a point out of something like that, that's a really good point.”