VANCOUVER – Two weeks into his Calder Trophy season four years ago, Elias Pettersson was thrown violently to the ice in Florida by defenceman Mike Matheson, who had been embarrassed by the rookie Vancouver Canuck earlier in the shift.

Pettersson got a concussion, Matheson a two-game suspension and the incident set off an inferno of debate about the culture of both the Canucks and the National Hockey League.

But even then, as a 19-year-old with the physique of a 2-iron, Pettersson was tougher than he seemed. Tougher mentally and physically. Four years later for Pettersson and two teams later for Matheson, the Canucks’ elite two-way centre victimized the Montreal Canadiens’ defenceman in overtime to give Vancouver an inexplicable 7-6 victory in front of fans who have rarely been so entertained.

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Pettersson may or may not have caused Matheson to blow a tire and lose the puck by touching the defenceman’s leg with his stick, but there was little doubt about the significance of the goal it caused – for the Canucks and Pettersson.

Stronger in every sense than he was four years ago, Pettersson skated the puck to the net from a sharp angle as Matheson retreated and tucked a forehand deke through the pads of Montreal goalie Sam Montembeault.

Asked after the game if he realized in the moment whom he had just pilfered and embarrassed, Pettersson looked a long time at the questioner before deadpanning: “I’m going to say no comment.” He knew.

This was Pettersson’s revenge.

At least that’s the storyline we’re going with in a game that could have spawned an alternate universe. For the first time since 1973, the Canucks rallied from a four-goal deficit to win. After the Canadiens scored four times in the first period, the Canucks eventually blew a 5-4 lead late in the third, trailed 6-5, then tied it on Andrei Kuzmenko’s power-play goal with Vancouver relief netminder Collin Delia on the bench for an extra attacker.

And then Pettersson won it 13 seconds into overtime.

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“If they had called a penalty there, I would have been upset,” he said. “I didn’t touch his skates. I saw that I had an open lane (to the net). And I saw their goalie had one knee down at the post and it looked like if I made a long move, I might be able to get it through.”

Later, in his press scrum, Pettersson told reporters: “I don’t know if it was relief to score a goal or whatever, but just, overall, the emotion all game, to be down four and come back, be down one again and then tie it at the end, it was a game that had a lot of emotions and I’m glad we came up on top tonight.”

A game with 13 goals deserves that many clauses in one sentence.

“Man, we got the two points; that’s all I can say,” Canuck captain Bo Horvat said. “At the end of the day, I don’t care how we did it, we got it done. Obviously, it was not pretty. We made it pretty hard on ourselves but we showed a lot of resilience tonight. And Dells stepping in (for starting goalie Spencer Martin) and playing as well as he did. . . it was a fun one. It was a Monday Night Football game.”

Maybe the Canucks would be good at football. They appear to have some flaws as a hockey team.

Unable to figure how to defend leads and win, now they don’t even know how to lose properly. Canuck teams don’t come back from 4-0 late in the second period. They don’t score seven goals in the final 23½ minutes.

They don’t finish a four-game homestand at 2-2 when they led for less than seven minutes in more than four hours of hockey.

“That’s just the rollercoaster of emotions — kind of how you do not want to play the game, really,” Canuck veteran J.T. Miller said. “You want to play even keel. But when you give up four that quickly, it was kind of a shell shock because. . . we had been absolutely dominant. Shots were 9-0 (at the start). A couple breakdowns and we’ve just got to get out of that habit of giving them up bang, bang, bang, bang. You’re not going to come back from 4-0 every day. But we talked about getting two in the second (period). But we had so many guys step up. Petey’s line was awesome; Petey was dominant.”

After Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win against Arizona, when the Canucks chased the mighty Coyotes all game, Pettersson’s line was reconfigured by desperate coach Bruce Boudreau. Brock Boeser, who went from being a healthy scratch to outed on the trade block to goal-scoring hero in one eventful Saturday, was deployed Monday alongside Pettersson and winger Ilya Mikheyev.

Mikheyev scored twice on perfect passes from Pettersson, who finished with three points, giving him 32 in 26 games this season.

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Horvat, Conor Garland and Jack Studnicka, with the Canucks’ first go-ahead goal at 8:49 of the third period, also scored for Vancouver.

It was impossible to foresee when the score was 4-0 that Jack Studnicka and Collin Delia would become key figures in a Canuck victory. But most of their season has been a surprise. The Canucks are Forest Gump’s box of chocolates.

“It’s funny, I feel like every game, it’s so live or die,” Miller said. “It’s 82 games. We’ve won a lot of games in the last 15 or 20 (but) it’s a process. It’s not going to be pretty every night. I’m just proud of the group. We had a lot of different guys step up tonight, which is awesome.”

The Canucks have lost seven games this season after leading by two or three goals. But now they’ve won one when they trailed by four.

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