With Jacob Markstrom (unfit to play) sidelined, the Vancouver Canucks had to turn to Thatcher Demko for his first ever playoff start in net on Tuesday night.

He ended up saving their season and pushing their Second Round series to a Game 6 on Thursday.

Demko played the game of his life on Tuesday, stopping 43 of the 44 shots he faced in a 2-1 Canucks win.

Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson provided the offense, but none of it would have mattered had it not been for the play of their goalie.

Simply put, he was the reason they won this game and the only reason they are not preparing to leave the Edmonton bubble.

The Golden Knights completely controlled the pace of the game and dominated every phase of it, outshooting the Canucks by a commanding 43-17 margin. Anything less than near perfection from Demko could have resulted in a rout the other way.

But goaltending is always the big X-factor in hockey, and that is especially true in the playoffs. On Tuesday the Canucks received what was by far the best goaltending performance.

The only blemish on Demko’s stat sheet for the night was a highlight reel Shea Theodore goal in the second period that might be one of the best goals of the series.

The Canucks responded just 24 seconds later with Boeser’s fourth goal of the playoffs to tie the game.

Now the question turns to Game 6 and what the Canucks do in net if Markstrom is ready to go. He is their starter and has been one of the most important players on the team all season, but you also can not just dismiss what Demko did in Game 5 with the season on the line. Especially if Markstrom is anything less than 100 percent (which he almost certainly would be if he was not healthy enough to even dress on Tuesday).

As for the Golden Knights, even though it is a disappointing result for them they still have to like the way they played. That sort of effort and territorial dominance is going to get you a win more often than not. You’re not going to run into that type of goaltending performance every night. They are still in control of the series and look like the superior team. Tuesday’s result does not change any of that.

Series preview
Game 1
: Golden Knights 5, Canucks 0 (recap)
Game 2: Canucks 5, Golden Knights 2 (recap)
Game 3: Golden Knights 3, Canucks 0 (recap)
Game 4: Golden Knights 5, Canucks 3 (recap)
Game 5: Canucks 2, Golden Knights 1
*Game 6: Thursday, Sept. 3 – TBD
*Game 7: Friday, Sept. 4 – TBD

*if necessary

MORE STANLEY CUP COVERAGE:
• Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

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