On Tuesday he got it and made the most of it.
Demko made 42 saves as the Vancouver Canucks edged the Vegas Golden Knights 2-1 at Rogers Place to stay alive in the postseason.
The Golden Knights still lead the best of seven series 3-2. Game 6 takes place on Thursday.
Demko got the nod after Jacob Markstrom, the Canucks regular starter, was deemed unable to play and did not dress. Demko battled a fierce Vegas attack all night and an avalanche of gunfire: redirects, one-timers, bizarre rushes and jostling in the mouth of the goal.
Prior to Tuesday, the 24-year-old had seen 8:26 of playoff action in 2020, cleaning up for Markstrom in the third period of a 5-0 Vegas blowout in Game 1.
Demko said he was preparing for it, spending extra time on the ice to work on some aspects of his game.
“You never know when to come in. I just wanted to stay alert during the whole training camp process and get into the bubble, ”Demko said.
“When these guys have days off I’m going to skate and make sure I stay alert.
“I know I’ve done my thing in practice, making sure my details are where they need to be. Obviously, it’s a little different from a game, but whatever you see in a game you’ve seen at some point in practice and you just have to rely on that sort of thing. ”
Elias Pettersson, who scored the winning goal, said Demko was the difference.
“The first two periods were not good for our team. Thatcher played an incredible game the whole game, ”he said.
The game was also a sort of redemption for Vancouver winger Brock Boeser, with a goal and an assist. He had been criticized as one of the top six forwards by getting the first six minutes, but before Tuesday he had only accumulated 20 shots on goal and three postseason goals.
The Canucks won after just 17 shots on Vegas goalie Robin Lehner.
Vegas scored early in the second period to take a 1-0 lead on a Shea Theodore goal, but Boeser and JT Miller responded barely 24 seconds later. Boeser, playing back and forth with Miller on a 2v1, redirected a Miller pass backhand past Lehner.
Boeser then established the winner early in the third, pulling a wrist from the point Pettersson redirected for his seventh goal of the playoffs.
“I know I haven’t scored and I know I have to score goals, but I’ve tried to bring my work ethic to every game and to contribute,” said Boeser.
“It was good to have one. I think it will definitely help confidence. ”
Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said, “(Demko) was really good and they were opportunistic. We have to make it a little harder for him with a little more traffic (in front of the net).
“When you get to the last eight teams, it’s never easy to shut down anyone, and they found a way to win. ”
Demko, drafted by Vancouver in 2014, is in his first full season with the team, taking over for some time in February and March when Markstrom injured his knee.
Tuesday was Demko’s first departure in nearly six months. His last start was on March 10, two days before the NHL regular season was cut short and ultimately canceled due to COVID-19.
He made 25 regular season starts, posting a 13-10-2 record (3.06 goals against average, .905 save percentage).
Markstrom’s status is not known. The NHL does not publish injury information.
Markstrom, also in his first NHL playoffs, was Vancouver’s hobbyhorse, starting 14 games in 29 days, going 8-6, stopping 451 shots (2.85 GAA, save percentage from , 919) and registering his first playoff shutout by beating the Minnesota Wild 3-0.
He often kept Vancouver in games, facing over 30 shots a night. In 15 playoff games, the Canucks have been beaten by their opponent 13 times (they’ve recorded more shots twice in the Minnesota series).