Canucks' special teams rise in 4-1 win over Leafs

VANCOUVER — Back-to-back short-handed goals powered the Vancouver Canucks to a 4-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.

Elias Pettersson and J.T. Miller each scored and notched an assist for the Canucks (25-32-5) during a Leafs' power play midway through the third period.

Andrei Kuzmenko and Nils Aman also found the back of the net for Vancouver, and Brock Boeser contributed a pair of helpers.

The Leafs (38-17-8) got their lone goal from John Tavares on a power play early in the final frame.

Thatcher Demko stopped 36-of-37 shots for Vancouver and Toronto's Matt Murray made 20 saves in his first game since Jan. 17.

The 28-year-old Leafs goalie missed 17 games with an ankle injury.

Toronto pulled Murray in favour of an extra attacker with more than three minutes left on the game clock and Pettersson nearly added to the Canucks tally, ringing a shot off the post.

Vancouver sealed the score with the lone even-strength goal of the game 12:34 into the third.

Boeser spotted Aman unmanned at the side of the Toronto net and put the puck on his tape. Aman tipped it in, giving the Canucks a 4-1 cushion with his third goal of the season.

Toronto got an opportunity to take the lead midway through the third when Vancouver's Phillip Di Giuseppe was called for high-sticking, but it was Vancouver that found the back of the net with a pair of short-handed goals 44 seconds apart.

Miller and Pettersson sparked the offensive outburst with a 2-on-1. Miller sent Pettersson the puck at the hash marks and the Swedish centre popped it under Murray to put the Canucks up 2-1 at the 6:39 mark.

The goal was Pettersson's 29th of the campaign.

Moments later, it was Pettersson who dished a long pass to Miller, who stepped around Auston Matthews and sent a shot over Murray's glove for his 21st goal of the season 7:33 into the third.

Tavares levelled the score at 1-1 on a power play early in the third after Canucks defenceman Tyler Myers was called for hooking.

William Nylander sliced a pass across the low slot — sending the puck through the legs of Vancouver defenceman Noah Juulsen — to the Leafs captain and Tavares popped it in behind Demko for his 28th goal of the season 1:32 into the period.

Toronto was 1-for-4 with the man advantage Saturday while Vancouver was 1-for-3.

The Canucks snapped the game's scoring drought with a power-play goal of their own 17:51 into the middle frame after Morgan Rielly was called for holding.

Quinn Hughes unleashed a blast from the point and Kuzmenko, stationed in the middle of the slot, got a piece of it, bouncing the puck in past Murray for his 29th goal of the season.

Murray kept the Canucks off the board with a big save earlier in the period.

Conor Garland and Christian Woolanian broke through of the Toronto defence on a 2-on-0, with Garland dished Woolanian a crisp pass across the top of the crease. The defenceman fired off a snap shot but Murray stuck is right pad out to make the save.

Demko kept the home side in the game through a first period that saw Toronto outshoot Vancouver 14-5.

The Leafs came within inches of opening the scoring 8:08 into the game when Nylander picked a puck off Woolanin's stick in the neutral zone and sprinted into Canucks territory on a breakaway, only to see Demko stick out his left pad to stop the ensuing shot.

Toronto appeared to be in danger of losing Matthews late in the first period after the star centre took a Juulsen slap shot off the inside of his right knee.

Matthews struggled to get up, then stayed on the ice on his hands and knees for several moments and was examined by a trainer before he limped to the locker room.

He returned midway through the second period.


Former Canucks defenceman Luke Schenn returned to Rogers Arena after Vancouver dealt him to Toronto for a third-round draft pick on Tuesday. Highlights of the veteran blue liner's time in Vancouver were shown on the big screen midway through the first period, eliciting stick taps from both benches and cheers from the crowd.


Canucks: Continue a six-game homestand Monday against the Nashville Predators.

Leafs: Visit the Devils in New Jersey on Tuesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2023.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press