VANCOUVER – It's impossible to look at Vancouver Canucks these days and see only the players, not the people.
After the team finished four games on a losing streak Tuesday, Elias Peterson stood at one end of the dressing room smiling, talking about his parents and grandparents and the 12 people traveling from Sweden on his 21st birthday and visiting Vancouver.
With a potentially spectacular career ahead of him, Patterson, no longer a boy, but still a full-time adult, rewarded his family by winning twice in a 5-3 win over the Nashville Predators.
On the opposite side of the room, Kanuk goalkeeper Thatcher Demko quietly talked to reporters while wearing gray-pink Hockey Brawl. He said it was for Jacques Marxstrom, a friend and teammate who lost his father Anders to cancer at the age of 59 at the weekend and then put what was left of his heart in a 2-1 defeat by the Canucks on Sunday to the Devils. .
"It's for a lot of people," Demko explained of his hat. "But he hits home a little harder with the team and what Markie is going through now. The team played really hard for him on Sunday. It was an important match for our dressing room and we were all disappointed a little more than normal that we didn't win.
"Tonight, we wanted to prove to him that we were going to play hard for him again. Maybe he wasn't playing, but the guys were thinking about him and playing for him.
"I think everyone here is rooted for him. He is a man with whom gatherings are respected and highly respected. He was there for me when I was down. Apparently, I've never been through something like that now. I'm only there for him if he needs me. "
Marxstrom did not speak to the media about his loss or his five-day vacation from Canax in October to visit his father in Sweden during the late stages of his father's cancer. Kanax not only agreed to the trip, but encouraged him, knowing that Marxtrom might be too late if he waited for the short Christmas break to go home.
Despite the emotions of the last six weeks, Marxstrom still managed to start 12 games for Kanax, announcing a savings of 0.918.
"It's incredible," said Demko. "I think it's lost. People just look at the numbers and their numbers are really good. And they don't think about what he's going through. It's hard to see and it's the kind that makes you look back and realize how happy you are. I still have both parents and I couldn't imagine either of them going through. It's really hard. "
There is no life and death in hockey, just among players who are people like the rest of us.
Peterson's goals against the Predators – a power-play goal with nothing and the winner of the 11:41 jump game of the third period – came from a spell of four games in which he managed only one assist.
The Canucks went 0-3-1 in those matches and played well enough to earn more than any point they made. Ironically, they probably got more than they deserved from the Predators, who outscored the Canucks 37-26 and outscored the runner-up as badly as any team this season.
When dealing with the question, Patterson couldn't think of the best birthday gift he had ever received, but said he wanted to play on his birthday.
"Ever since I got up, as a high school hockey player, I've always been away (from home)," he said. "Yes, it is special. I've been playing the last four years, I think, on my birthday. But it's been my first victory for some time on my birthday.
"It is good to achieve some goals. I think the last few games we haven't created. We got stuck with that and worked hard and it was nice to get a couple of cells. "
The only Januks happier than Patterson was wing player Tanner Pearson, who crushed a 14-match hunger strike with Vancouver's first and final goals, the second one at 180 meters in an empty net to click on Phillip Thorsberg's post-and-power brought the Predators within one goal with 5:34 remaining.
"I was hit by the glass," he said of his second goal celebration after embarrassing Ryan Ellis in the Nashville blue line and firing a shot past goalkeeper Peka Rin. "But I thought I was going to break my arm, so they didn't. It was definitely good to get that.
"A lot has passed since the last, so it was nice to win and win after losing a couple in a row."
There was another very human moment for the Kanaks: in five minutes of play, veteran center Brandon Sater tried to change in two seconds after returning to the bench, smashing a stick against the boards and going well into the locker room.
He appears to have suffered a groin injury while sliding on the previous change of the previous change. The 30-year-old's season ended with a major abdominal surgery last year – his second in four years as a Canon. Vancouver coach Travis Green did not offer a report of injury after Tuesday's game.
Sutter's replacement, second-year pro Adam Gaudet, has succeeded.