A new coach seems to have gifted the Vancouver Canucks with a renewed sense of optimism.
After struggling through the start of the season, the Canucks persevered for a 2-1 shootout win over the Boston Bruins in Vancouver on Wednesday, earning their second straight victory under bench boss Bruce Boudreau.
“I think everyone feels confident that we can go into the next one and get another (win),” said defenceman Quinn Hughes. “We’re taking it one game at a time and one week at a time and that was the message when coach came in. For the first two games, I think we’re doing really good. And the amazing thing is I think we can play better, too.”
J.T. Miller put away the shootout winner, patiently out waiting Bruins netminder Jeremy Swayman, then tucking a shot in behind his right skate.
Bo Horvat also scored for Vancouver (10-15-2) in the shootout while Thatcher Demko stopped both David Pastrnak and Charlie Coyle.
Boudreau took over the team late Sunday night and has little time to come up with a shootout strategy. He said he relied on statistics Wednesday.
“I wanted [Elias Pettersson] to go first. I think he was at 40 per cent in his career,” the coach said of the Swedish centre who was stymied by Swayman. “And then J.T. I know loves the pressure. I know that already after about four days.”
Brock Boeser scored in regulation for Vancouver and Patrice Bergeron got a power-play goal for Boston (12-8-2).
Demko registered 35 saves to collect a win on his 26th birthday, while Swayman stopped 31-of-32 shots for the visitors.
The Canucks took a 1-0 lead into the third period but were outshot 16-13 across the final frame.
Boston got a two-man advantage early in the frame and used the opportunity to knot the score at 1-1.
Juho Lammikko was called for slashing and the Canucks were weathering the penalty before Miller ran into Swayman and was called for goaltender interference.
Just seconds into the 5-on-3 stretch, David Pastrnak sent a shot flying from inside the blue line and Bergeron deflected it in from in front of the net 4:51 into the final frame.
“Obviously (Pastrnak) has that shot where they need to be in the shooting lane so it usually opens up a bit of a passing lane for a shot tip and especially 5-on-3 and we tried to use that to our advantage,” said the Bruins captain, who collected his ninth goal of the year. “We talked about it before the face off on that play that it should be there.”
Bruins villain Brad Marchand flattened Travis Hamonic along the boards midway through the second frame, leaving the Canucks defenceman with an apparent leg injury. Hamonic limped to the bench, not putting any weight on his right leg, and was helped down the tunnel by a trainer.
He did not return to the game, leaving Vancouver with just five defencemen.
“I think as far as the five going there, I think we played really good and strong,” Hughes said. “And it was just about playing smart hockey with five guys there and taking short shifts and I think we did really good with that.”
Marchand was handed an interference penalty for the play and the Canucks capitalized at the 15:01 mark.
Miller uncorked a rocket from the top of the faceoff circle and Boeser tipped it in past Swayman from low in the slot for his sixth goal of the season.
After going 13 games in a road without scoring, Boeser has power-play goals in back-to-back games.
“I’ve talked about how I want to produce for this team and help us win hockey games,” he said. “And to get a couple in the last couple wins, I think it means a lot and it’s big for my confidence.”
Both sides were 1 for 4 with the man advantage Wednesday.
The Bruins briefly had reason to celebrate earlier in the second. Boston picked off a puck deep in Vancouver territory and got it up the wall to Erik Haula, who went one-on-one with Demko before sending a backhanded shot up over the goalie’s left pad.
The revelry was brief, though, as the Canucks challenged for offside and after a video review, officials called the goal off.
Bruins assistant coach Joe Sacco said the game was tight at even strength.
“Both teams had some opportunities but probably not as much as we would have liked, especially speaking for our group. We had some opportunities,” said Sacco, who’s filling in as head coach while Bruce Cassidy is in COVID-19 protocol. “We passed up on some shots, I thought. I’d like to see us play off the shot a little bit more at times, but some of that has to go their credit as well. They defended hard.”
Boston will be back in action Thursday, visiting the Oilers in Edmonton. Vancouver continues a six-game homestand Friday when it hosts the Winnipeg Jets.
The teams split the two-game season series. The Canucks lost 3-2 to the Bruins in Boston on Nov. 28 ... Vancouver defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson was scratched from the lineup with an undisclosed injury. Boudreau said he hopes to have him back for Friday’s game ... Miller has seven points (two goals, five assists) in his last five games.