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Canucks’ power play thwarts Leafs comeback bid

Vancouver Canucks defenceman Quinn Hughes summed up his team’s 6-4 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday in simple fashion.

“We found a way to win,” the captain said after Vancouver twice gave away leads to Toronto but still emerged on top.

“Our power play found a way.”

Third-period power-play goals by J.T. Miller and Elias Pettersson helped the Canucks defeat the visiting Maple Leafs.

The Canucks have scored four power-play goals in the last three games.

“It’s not always about the goals but it’s nice to get momentum a couple of times in a row and it feels like it’s been a while since we said the power play kind of won us a game, come up big,” Miller said.

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Conor Garland and Nils Hoglander had two goals each for the Canucks (31-11-4), who allowed a 3-0 first-period lead to get away before regrouping.

William Nylander scored twice for the Maple Leafs, including his 200th career goal, while Jake McCabe and Mitch Marner had one each for Toronto (22-14-8).

Thatcher Demko stopped 44 of 48 shots. Martin Jones made 15 saves.

“They’re going to take advantage of opportunity,” Demko said about the Leafs comeback efforts.

“I was really thrilled with the way we were able to stick with it. In the last couple of years that would be something that might deflate us, we might not have the ability to come back and win that game. I’m really proud of the group.”

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Miller broke a 4-4 tie in the third, tipping a Hughes shot from the point past Jones. Hughes finished the game with three assists.

Pettersson added an insurance goal 3 1/2 minutes later, sliding in a pass from Miller to make it 6-4.

The winner came shortly after Marner capitalized on a sloppy pass from Pettersson to Brock Boeser to spring free and score the short-handed, tying goal on Demko to make it 4-4 at 3:13 of the third.

Facing a 3-0 deficit after the first, the Leafs stormed back in the second period, scoring three goals — two from Nylander — in less than four minutes.

“We got belief in this team. We came in here as a group and knew that was pretty pathetic,” Marner said about the first period showing.

“So we knew this game, and the pace of this game, was going to be very high and very competitive and we didn’t bring it in the first period and I like our response in the second.”

Nylander opened the scoring for Toronto off an innocuous looking shot, beating Demko top corner.

“I made a mistake on their first goal obviously and it kind of started an avalanche there,” Demko said.

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McCabe added a second after tipping in a long shot from the point from Marner before Nylander then added his second of the game again beating Demko glove side.

But Garland added his second of the game with a minute left to play in the period, burying home his own rebound off a Leafs defenceman.

“We would’ve loved to have it end 3-0 but the fans, this is obviously what they came for: two high offence teams going at it,” said Garland.

“It was a fun game to be a part of and lot more fun when you come out on top.”

Hoglander opened the scoring after converting a rebound off of Lafferty past a stranded Jones at 3:06.

He notched his second just under three minutes later, opting to shoot top corner on Jones’ stick side instead of passing back to the point.

The third came off a similar breakdown in front of the Leafs net, with Teddy Blueger opting to drop a pass back to Garland who found a way past Jones.

Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said he was pleased with his team’s overall performance, but the slow start hurt them from the outset.

“We did a lot of good things, ended up outshooting them pretty significantly in the game but as much as we fight back, which I love, and I liked a lot of things we did to start that second period to get us back in the game, you can’t spot that team three goals.”

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The Leafs best chance came as Tyler Bertuzzi found himself alone in front of Demko, but the Canucks netminder saved the initial shot with the rebound getting cleared by Hughes.

NEXT UP:

Maple Leafs: Travel to Seattle to play the Kraken on Sunday.

Canucks: Host the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2024.

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