Decked out in vintage gear, Demko and Canucks rekindle fond memories of ’94

VANCOUVER – On retro night, the Vancouver Canucks had a vintage goalie.

It looked like they got the vintage goalie’s old team, too.

Not satisfied with the black, skate-logo jerseys the team wore when it went to the 1994 Stanley Cup Final, goalie Thatcher Demko paid tribute to former Canuck Kirk McLean by also replicating the iconic goalie’s mask, gloves and pads.

It was a remarkable impersonation.

Born a year after the Canucks lost that seven-game final to the New York Rangers, Demko looked like McLean. Even more surprising, the Canucks on Thursday looked like those Canucks, pumping in five goals in the second period and dumping the Calgary Flames 7-1 at Rogers Arena.

Maybe the Flames were tired from all the winning, having triumphed in 10 straight before crashing against the Canucks. But Vancouver, after a couple of awful home-ice appearances recently, played its best game in a long time against the National Hockey League’s hottest team.

The Canucks got two goals apiece from stars Elias Pettersson, JT Miller and Bo Horvat, scored three power-play goals for the first time since Nov. 7 and outshot a Stanley Cup-caliber Flames team 38-30.

Demko stopped 37 of them while starting opposite his former mentor and goaltending partner, Jacob Markstrom, and lost his shutout on Andrew Magianpane’s three-on-two goal with just 2:07 remaining.

“There’s a lot that goes into it for me,” Demko, 26, said of his tribute to McLean. “I always try to be very cognizant of. . . who’s come before me and who’s kind of paved the way for guys like me coming into the organization. I saw that we were only wearing the jersey once this year, so I knew it was a good opportunity to kind of go all out with it.”

Demko contacted McLean, who is on the Wall of Honor inside Rogers Arena and does hospitality work for the Canucks, to seek his permission for Thursday’s homage. Demko worked with his equipment provider, CCM, to get the colors and details on his gear as close to identical as McLean’s 1990s look.

“A lot of back and forth and they nailed it,” Demko said. “Top to bottom, it was pretty awesome.”

Losers of two other Stanley Cup Finals – and out of the playoffs in six of the last seven years – there has been a lot of disappointment for the franchise over the last 50 years. But the quality of Canuck goaltending has rarely been disappointing.

From Gary Smith in the mid-1970s, Richard Brodeur in the early 1980s, then McLean and, this century, Roberto Luongo, Cory Schneider, Markstrom and now Demko, the Canucks have had some outstanding goaltenders.

“It’s something I’m aware of for sure,” Demko said. “I think the position has always been well-tended throughout the organization’s history. When you’re a goalie, in general, you have a lot of responsibility. But when you have guys before you that are legends of the game, I think it’s even more important to take that weight on every day and make sure that you’re upholding them.”

After breaking through as a starter last year, replacing Markstrom, Demko has been one of the best goalies in the NHL this season.

If only the team in front of him was as good as the guy in the crease.

But it was excellent on Thursday, and has been mostly good-to-excellent since Bruce Boudreau took over as coach 2 ½ months ago.

Three games over .500 for the first time this season, the Canucks are three points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference, although most teams ahead of them have played fewer games.

Having trailed 5-0 twice in their previous four home games, the Canucks seemed unlikely to do that again. Something more shocking occurred: they led the Flames 5-0.

The five-finger pour of offense came entirely in the second period – and against two goalies after Markstrom broke a skate blade and had to leave the ice late in the frame. From the dressing room, he heard the muffled roar of the Rogers Arena crowd twice in two minutes.

Backup Dan Vladar entered the game cold at 18:14 of the second period, and immediately into an uncharacteristically hot Canucks power play. Before he could make a save, Miller, literally kicking up his trade value a notch, booted the puck to Horvat for a semi-open-netter that made it 4-0 at 18:42.

Then, four seconds before the end of the period, Miller outwaited and embarrassed Vladar on a slow-motion penalty shot after Calgary defenseman Rasmus Andersson grabbed the puck in his crease during a scramble.

It was a virtuoso period for Miller, who was shifted early in the game into an even-strength matchup against the Flames’ top line: Elias Lindholm between wingers Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau. Lindholm had scored in eight straight games, while Tkachuk and Gaudreau had combined for 22 points over that time.

But it was Miller who dominated the scoresheet, whipping a power-play wrist shot past Brock Boeser’s screen and Markstrom’s shoulder to make it 2-0 at 10:18 of the decisive period before tripling his points later on.

Pettersson scored once on the power play and once shorthanded, giving him 20 points in his last 16 games.

Their retro jerseys rekindled some fond memories of Kirk McLean’s old team and a failed run to the Cup Final that was far more noble than the Canucks’ loss to the Boston Bruins in 2011. But the win was also a launching point forward to what will have to be a sensational stretch run for the current Canucks to make the playoffs.

They open a four-game road trip Sunday in Manhattan against the New York Rangers.

“We just set a standard for ourselves for the rest of the year,” Miller said. “And that’s not by winning by six goals, but it’s playing the right way, being sharp on the special teams, being ready to start the game. We have a standard. We need to play to that from here on out. We shouldn’t be satisfied with anything other than that, really.

“That was a big test. We were saying if you can’t get up for a game like that at home against one of the best teams in the league, there’s something wrong with you.”

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