Elias Pettersson tallied two points in his return to the lineup for the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday, but the star rookie was more concerned his mistakes.
“I felt I lost the puck a few times, made some bad decisions, some turnovers. But I’ve just got to play it simple,” he said after Vancouver beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-2.
Pettersson had a goal and an assist in the victory. It was his first game back since he suffered a slight MCL sprain against the Montreal Canadiens on Jan. 3.
“I thought he was pretty good for being out for a bit,” Vancouver coach Travis Green said.
“Whenever you miss (games with) an injury, and especially an injury that’s with your lower-body, your leg your knee, it takes a couple games.”
The Canucks (23-21-6) have taken eight points from their last five games but have struggled to get going early.
Though Pettersson’s first-period marker gave Vancouver an early lead Sunday, the team was forced to claw back from a 2-1 deficit after an ugly second period.
The Canucks were sloppy with the puck and late getting places across the frame, Green said.
“We were lucky they didn’t score more in the second,” the coach said, adding that during the intermission he didn’t know whether to tell his players he was mad at them or feel sorry for how poorly they were playing.
“I just said ‘Hey, we’ve got a chance to win. If you haven’t been good tonight, look in the mirror.’ And give them credit – they did. They found their game. And when a team responds, you’re proud of them.”
Bo Horvat evened the game at two 7:27 into the third period, sweeping in a low wrist shot in for his 18th goal of the year.
The tally broke a scoring drought for the Canucks centre, who had 38 shots but not a single goal in his previous 11 games.
“It definitely put a smile on my face to score a big goal like that,” he said. “It’s funny how it works. You have all these Grade-A chances that all should have gone in and that one goes in, so I’m definitely happy to get one for sure.”
Antoine Roussel scored the game-winner for Vancouver.
Frans Nielsen and Thomas Vanek put up goals for Detroit (18-25-7).
Jacob Markstrom stopped 35-of-39 for the Canucks and Wings goalie Jonathan Bernier had 28 saves.
Vanek, a former Canuck, said it’s frustrating for his team to give up another third-period lead.
“It’s tough, we’re all pros, we want to win,” he said. “It’s no fun when you keep losing, but I think at least we are at the stage where we are playing consistently well. There’s not bonus points for that unfortunately, but as a group we just have to put it behind us.”
The Wings dropped a 6-4 decision in Calgary on Friday, too, and the loses are tough on the team’s confidence, said head coach Jeff Blashill.
“That’s the league right now,” he said. “It’s so tight that when you get on a roll you can really get on a roll. But that goes both ways, winning and losing, and right now we’re on a roll the wrong way. We just keep finding ways to lose hockey games.”
The Wings will wrap up a Canadian road swing Tuesday when they visit the Oilers in Edmonton.
The Canucks have one more game before the all-star break. They’ll host the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday.