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Vancouver Canucks' J.T. Miller, left, congratulates goalie Thatcher Demko after Vancouver defeated the Arizona Coyotes 5-1 in Vancouver, on Feb. 8, 2022.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

Oliver Ekman-Larsson wasn’t feeling his best on Tuesday night.

For the very first time, the Vancouver Canucks defenceman was playing the Arizona Coyotes, the team that drafted him and where he spent the first 11 seasons of his NHL career.

“It was tough, to be honest with you. A lot of emotions and just seeing the guys on the other side. I thought it was going to be easier,” he said. “I didn’t feel good in the game tonight. I thought I probably had more tape-to-tape passes with their team than our team.”

He may not have felt good, but Ekman-Larsson put up one of his best performances in a Canucks jersey, registering three assists as Vancouver routed Arizona 5-1.

It was Ekman-Larsson’s first multi-point night of the year.

“It’s funny how it works,” said the 30-year-old Swede, who was dealt to Vancouver in a blockbuster trade last June. “You’re feeling good, you don’t get rewarded by putting up points and then you kind of have an off night and you end up with three points. So I don’t know how to explain that. But that’s hockey, I guess.”

He wasn’t the only Canuck to have a big night. J.T. Miller, Elias Pettersson and Bo Horvat each had a goal and an assist as Vancouver improved to 21-20-6 on the season in its return from the all-star break.

Conor Garland and Brock Boeser also scored, and Noah Juulsen notched two assists.

“If your best players aren’t your best players then you very rarely win. And I thought tonight they stepped up and did the job when they had to,” said Canucks head coach Bruce Boudreau. “We’ll be better tomorrow but I thought the best players did what they had to and that’s score some goals.”

Lawson Crouse replied for the Coyotes (11-31-4), who are 3-7-0 in their last 10 outings.

Despite the result, Arizona head coach Andre Tourigny said he was happy with how his side played for much of the game.

“OK, we had that stretch in the second period, three or four minutes where we didn’t play really well but at the same time we play against a good NHL team, you won’t have the momentum for 60 minutes,” he said.

“You need to expect the other team to have good time and they had and we could not stop the bleeding but I don’t mind the way we fought, our forecheck was really good, we create a lot of new o-zone, their goalie was the best player on the ice tonight so that’s the difference.”

The Canucks once again got all-star goaltending from Thatcher Demko, who made 35 saves. Karel Vejmelka stopped 24-of-29 shots for the Coyotes.

Tuesday marked the return of Arizona’s Antoine Roussel and Loui Eriksson to Vancouver. The duo were part of a blockbuster trade in July that saw the Canucks send three forwards and a ream of draft picks to the Coyotes in exchange for winger Garland and Ekman-Larsson.

Roussel and Eriksson were recognized on the big screen midway through the first period, drawing a mix of cheers and boos from the crowd.

Boeser capped the scoring with a power play marker 11:25 into the third period after Ilya Lyubushkin was called for slashing against Miller.

The right-winger deflected in Pettersson’s shot for his 13th goal of the year.

The Canucks were 2 for 3 on the power play Tuesday, while the Coyotes went scoreless on four chances.

Arizona had its chances with the man advantage but simply couldn’t finish, Crouse said.

“We moved the puck well, we had some good possession time in the o-zone for taking shots,” he said. “We were around it, it just didn’t go in the back of the net, so obviously lots to look at and say we did well but at the end of the day our job is to go out there and score and we didn’t do that, so back to the drawing board.”

Vancouver (69.9 per cent) and Arizona (73 per cent) came into the game with the two worst penalty kills in the league.

Earlier in the third, Miller picked up the puck deep in Vancouver territory and deftly skated the length of the ice, evading Arizona defenders all the way, and wrapped a shot around Vejmelka’s outstretched leg to put the Canucks up 4-1.

“That’s not a lucky goal. That’s pure skill and talent and desire. The deceptive speed that he went around the defenceman and still had the wherewithal to still pull it around the goalie was pretty impressive,” Boudreau said of the veteran forward’s 16th of the year.

“I would not be doubting that that’s on the NHL Network, TSN as a top 10 highlight tonight. That was definitely an end-to-end rush that you don’t see too much of anymore.”

The Coyotes cut into the home side’s lead 13:31 into the second period, with Crouse sending a backhanded shot in behind Demko from the side of the net.

Vancouver took control of the game early in the second, erupting with three goals in two minutes and 22 seconds.

Garland found the back of the net first, collecting a slick pass from Noah Juulsen and dropping to one knee before unleashing a rocket at the 3:48 mark for his 11th goal of the season.

Juulsen was credited with an assist, his first-ever point for the Canucks. He added a second in the third, helping out on Miller’s goal.

Moments after Garland’s goal, Vancouver got a man advantage as Phil Kessel was sent to the box for slashing Juho Lammikko.

The Canucks were quick to capitalize, with Ekman-Larsson firing a shot from the blue line and Horvat deflecting it in from the front of the net to put his team up 2-0.

Miller got an assist on the play, his 400th point in NHL play and said he’s humbled by the milestone.

“It was a rough start there to get to where I wanted to be and I learned a lot,” he said. “I feel super honoured to play with a lot of good players. I’ll enjoy it tonight.”

Vasily Podkolzin set up the third goal of the night, slicing a slick pass to an unmarked Pettersson. The Swedish centre sprinted towards the net and blasted a wrist shot over Vejmelka’s glove from the hash marks 6:10 into the middle frame.

The Canucks continue a three-game homestand Wednesday when they host the New York Islanders. The Coyotes are set to visit the Kraken in Seattle the same night.


Vancouver was without top defenceman Quinn Hughes, who was added to the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol on Monday ... Arizona’s Clayton Keller saw his six-game point streak snapped. The right-winger had eight points (three goals, five assists) across the stretch. ... Tuesday marked the first time the two sides have played since March 4, 2020.