Playing a team almost as bad at killing penalties as they are was the remedy the Vancouver Canucks needed to cure a five-game NHL losing streak Friday night.
The Canucks got power-play goals from Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland for a much needed 3-2 victory. Defenceman Kyle Burroughs, with his first NHL goal, also scored for the Canucks (6-10-2) who were 0-13 on the power play over the last five games.
“It’s big,” said goaltender Thatcher Demko, named the game’s first star after stopping 36 shots, including one off Nikolaj Ehlers in the dying seconds of the game with the Jets playing with an extra attacker.
“Things haven’t been going the way we want them the last few. We have some ground to make up. Hopefully tonight is the start of stringing a few together and building some confidence in the room.”
Head coach Travis Green made some changes on his power play, moving Garland to the top unit.
“Anytime you make a change you hope it pays off,” said Green. “It was nice to see the guys get rewarded tonight for sure.”
Ehlers, on a pretty individual play, and Pierre-Luc Dubois scored for the Jets (9-4-4), who lost their second consecutive game. Goaltender Eric Comrie stopped 26 shots.
“For the most part we played a decent game,” said Winnipeg’s Adam Lowry. “It wasn’t like we weren’t in it or were giving up a lot of zone time or things like that.
“It’s just a couple of areas of our game we want to clean up. Maybe the sharpness wasn’t there.”
The win was just the third in 12 games for Vancouver but may cool the temperature of disgruntled Canuck fans who have been calling for general manager Jim Benning and Green to be fired. There seemed a little extra enthusiasm singing “Sweet Caroline” in the third period.
Vancouver was 2-3 on the power play and didn’t play shorthanded all night.
“It’s a win, it’s big,” said Garland, who collected his fifth goal of the season and first on the power play. “It’s a big night for our power play. It was the difference in the game.
“We’re excited now to get some confidence and get rolling.”
The Canucks, who came into the game with the league’s worst penalty kill (60.3 per cent), took advantage of the Jets having the second worst (64.3 per cent) when Winnipeg was assessed an extra penalty during a first-period scrum.
Ekman-Larsson took a pass from Elias Pettersson in the high slot and took a seeing-eye shot that travelled through traffic and past Comrie at 13:51. It was his second goal of the year.
Burroughs made it 2-0 at 3:12 of the second on another shot through traffic that hit the left post and into the net. The Vancouver native, who has played several seasons in the AHL, said he was hit just as he released the shot and didn’t see the puck go in.
“I think I was the last one to celebrate,” he said. “It was a big accomplishment, especially for me. I don’t score a lot of goals in any league.
“To get it here is nice and a little bit of weight off the back. It’s even better to get the win.”
Ehlers cut the lead in half just a minute later. He scooped up a loose puck in the Vancouver zone, skated around defenceman Quinn Hughes and scored his sixth of the season.
Garland notched Vancouver’s second power-play goal at 6:54 of the second after Blake Wheeler was called for high-sticking. Alex Chiasson found him at the top of the faceoff circle, and he beat Comrie with a bullet of a shot over the goaltender’s shoulder.
Dubois made it interesting with his 10 goal of the season with 2:28 remaining.
Demko said the team hasn’t let the criticism it has faced become a distraction in the dressing room.
“We are all on the same page as far as what we want to accomplish,” he said. “Guys aren’t turning on each other and getting negative.
“That’s a huge sign. It’s something we have to keep building with.”
Pettersson’s assist on the first goal broke a four-game pointless streak ... The Canucks had scored one or less power-play goals in the last seven games ... The Jets lost 2-1 to the Oilers in Edmonton in shootout Thursday night ... Vancouver forward Justin Bailey cleared waivers and was assigned to the Canucks AHL team in Abbotsford, B.C. Proceeds from the Canucks 50/50 draw went to flood relief in B.C.