VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP)Elias Pettersson and J.T. Miller scored short-handed goals 44 seconds apart in the third period and the Vancouver Canucks beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1 Saturday.
Andrei Kuzmenko and Nils Arman also scored for the Canucks, who won for the second time in three games. Brock Boeser had two assists and Thatcher Demko stopped 36 shots.
“That was a good one. Fun one start to finish,” Demko said. “We always know when (the Leafs) come to town, it’s going to be an energetic building. And obviously there’s a lot of physicality to start the game and both teams are really engaged in kind of a playoff game there for a second.”
Though the Canucks are out of postseason contention, the way they play still matters to them.
“It’s not just play out 20 games and let’s wait for next year. These are important games,” Vancouver coach Rick Tocchet said. “Everyday we come in we’re trying to become a team that we want to be, and we can’t waste practices you can’t waste games.”
John Tavares scored for Toronto, which lost for the second time in three games after winning five of their previous six. Matt Murray, back after missing 17 games with an ankle injury, finished with 20 saves.
“We’ve put some really good stretches together over the last few weeks,” Tavares said. “But obviously we want to keep building momentum here, especially off of good efforts, good results, so something we need to be better at.”
The Canucks came in having killed off a league-worst 67.6% of their penalties this season while the Maple Leafs’ power play was tied for third in the NHL at 25.1%.
With Phillip Di Giuseppe in the box for high-sticking, Miller skated up the right side on a 2-on-1 rush and passed across to Pettersson who deked and slid the puck under Murray’s right pad for his 29th before running into the goalie to give the Canucks a 2-1 lead at 6:49 of the third.
Less than a minute later with Di Giuseppe still in the box, Miller got a lead pass from Pettersson, skated up and beat Murray from the left side for his 21st to give Vancouver a two-goal lead.
“It’s such a fine line.” Canucks defenseman Tyler Myers said. “I think to be honest, I think we’re a little more patient when we need to be and we’re pressuring when we need to. I think our reads have been a little bit better. And I think our sacrifice to block shots has been a lot better.”
Arman took advantage of a Maple Leafs turnover in their defensive zone as he got a pass from Boeser on the left side and beat Murray for his third with 7 1/2 minutes left.
Toronto pulled Murray in favor of an extra attacker with more than three minutes remaining on the game clock and Pettersson nearly added to the Canucks’ tally, ringing a shot off the post.
Kuzmenko gave Vancouver a 1-0 lead with his 29th with a power-play goal with 2:09 left in the second, and Tavares tied it on a Toronto power play for his 28th at 1:32 of the third.
MATTHEWS DOWN, NOT OUT
Toronto appeared to be in danger of losing Auston Matthews late in the first period after the star center took a slap shot off the inside of his right knee. He struggled to get up, then stayed on the ice on his hands and knees for several moments and was examined by a trainer before he limped to the locker room.
Matthews returned midway through the second period, but said after the game that he was still hurting.
“I tried to grind my way through it,” he said. “I mean, it didn’t feel too great but felt fine to play.”
Maple Leafs: At New Jersey on Tuesday night to finish a five-game trip.
Canucks: Host Nashville on Monday night in the third of a six-game homestand.
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