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Strong start by Vancouver Canucks holds off Carolina Hurricanes in 4-3 win

The Vancouver Canucks’ 4-3 win on Saturday night is one step closer to “utopia,” according to head coach Rick Tocchet.

The Canucks rode a strong start to deny the Carolina Hurricanes a potential comeback win.

Elias Pettersson had three points (one goal, two assists), while Sam Lafferty and Ilya Mikheyev had a goal and an assist each. J.T. Miller also scored for the Canucks (18-9-1), who won their second straight.

“I think our last two games, we’re playing faster. We’re not massaging the puck, the (defence) are getting up quick, the forwards are getting back quicker. That’s the utopia I’m looking for,” Tocchet said.

“That fast hockey and everybody playing the same way. We’re still striving for that but tonight was another (example) of chipping away at that.”

Jordan Martinook, Brady Skjei and Stefan Noesen had a goal apiece for Carolina (14-12-1), which suffered its fourth straight loss.

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Pettersson’s winner came as he received a pass from Mikheyev and then held off a defender to finish a wraparound past Antti Raanta.

“(Mikheyev) gets it, I saw him cycle and I just tried to create space for myself and did a wrapaound. I’m glad it went in,” Pettersson said.

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It’s the Swedish forward’s second wraparound goal in two weeks, after he scored a similar on against Anaheim Ducks netminder John Gibson on Nov. 28.

Thatcher Demko stopped 21 of 24 shots, while Raanta stopped 20 of 24.

With the win, the Canucks are 11-2-0 when leading after the first period this season.

That ability to hold on to leads will determine the team’s success this season, Miller said.

“We don’t want to change our game and sit back. If you sit back, teams are going to eat you alive at some point it. They’re going to get their look,” he said. “We’re getting better at it. Not perfect by any means tonight.”

Carolina tied the game at 2:10 of the third period after Jack Drury tipped a shot in front of Demko’s net, with the puck hitting the crossbar before falling to an open Noesen who finished it off.

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Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour was blunt in his assessment of his team’s performance.

“We gave them two goals,” he said. “Just lack of coverage, just standing there watching the guy tap it in and that can’t happen against any team, especially a good team that knows how to play and plays hard.”

Carolina held a players-only meeting after the loss, with media only allowed in 20 minutes after the game had finished.

Miller’s goal came at 13:46 of the second period after Brock Boeser beat Jaccob Slavin for the puck in the corner before sliding it to his linemate.

The Hurricanes had pulled within one in the final minute of the second period after Dmitry Orlov found a pass between to Quinn Hughes’ legs with Skjei finishing the chance.

Martinook scored his first of the season off a give-and-go with Jesper Fast 30 seconds after Mikheyev had doubled Vancouver’s lead in the second period.

Lafferty opened the scoring a third of the way through the opening period after banging home a rebound from an Elias Pettersson shot past Raanta.

Tocchet said that’s the sort of goal he’s looking for his centre to contribute to the team.

“If you look at that goal, he goes through the middle drive, he bulls his way in, knocks people out and the rebound’s there and he puts that in,” Tocchet said, adding that he had a grin on his face when the goal light went off. “That’s a power forward goal and you have to have those types of goals to win.”

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