VANCOUVER — There was a different air in the Vancouver Canucks' locker room Friday night.
The team had its first win on home ice — a decisive 5-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. And after starting the campaign on a disastrous seven-game skid, the Canucks were officially on a new streak with back-to-back victories.
“Obviously there's a lot more energy, obviously the smiles on our faces," said Bo Horvat, who scored twice on Friday.
"But I mean, we’ve got to dig ourselves out of the hole here. Obviously, we put ourselves in this situation. Just because we won two games, you can't be satisfied. We’ve got to keep going here.”
Andrei Kuzmenko had a goal and an assist for the Canucks (2-5-2), while Tanner Pearson and J.T. Miller also scored and Ilya Mikheyev contributed a pair of helpers.
Rickard Rakell replied for the Penguins (4-3-1), who saw their losing skid stretch to three games, all in regulation.
"I just don't think we're putting a 60-minute effort together, and it's hard to win in this league when you don't," said Mike Sullivan, Pittsburgh's head coach.
The Canucks were coming off their first win of the season, a 5-4 victory over the Kraken in Seattle on Thursday. Pittsburgh came into the game rested, having dropped a 4-1 decision to the Flames in Calgary on Tuesday.
Weariness appeared to creep into the home side's game, with the Penguins outshooting the Canucks 30-19 across the second and third periods, but goalie Spencer Martin held fast for the victory.
The 24-year-old netminder stopped 34-of-35 shots and improved during his time with the Canucks. Pittsburgh's Tristan Jarry made 24 saves.
Martin made big saves when he had to Friday, said Vancouver's head coach Bruce Boudreau.
“And that's all I've seen of him," he said. "Eight games now and he's gotten points in eight straight, so I haven't seen him do anything negative. And that's great when you can have your other goaltender doing that, that makes an inner competition a little bit.”
The Canucks took a 2-1 lead into the final frame and struggled in the opening minutes, fighting mightily to get out of their own zone.
Martin said he wasn't concerned.
“Honestly, I don't think they had much," he said. "We did a fantastic job obviously. They have a lot of firepower there. They did a good job getting behind the net, I thought, but we kept them to the perimeter. So it was a good game.”
After the barrage, Vancouver erupted with three goals in just over seven minutes.
Kuzmenko tipped in a long bomb from defenceman Luke Schenn and Horvat scored on a power-play before Miller added an empty-net strike 17:50 into the frame.
Third-period collapses have become a trend for the team this season, and Boudreau said his group appeared as if "the weight of the world was lifted off (their) shoulders" after weathering the adversity.
"Every other third period has been like ‘Oh, what's gonna happen that's negative?’ And I think once we got through the first three minutes, and it was like, ‘OK, let's go.’ And everybody just played," he said. "And I thought it was really good.”
Pittsburgh bit into Vancouver's lead with a power-play tally 16:03 into the second after Miller was called for high-sticking Sidney Crosby in the offensive zone.
Bryan Rust flicked a shot on net from the slot and while Martin made the stop, he couldn't hold on to the rebound. Rakell picked up the loose puck and backhanded it into the net, making it 2-1.
Late in the first, Evgeni Malkin was called for hooking Miller and the penalty proved costly for Pittsburgh early in the next period.
Just seconds in, Horvat called for the puck in the neutral zone and Kuzmenko wired him a pass. The Canucks captain skated in on an odd-man rush and unleashed a one-timer that sailed over Jarry's glove and gave the home side a two-goal lead 32 seconds into the period.
The Canucks went 2-for-4 with the man advantage Friday and the Penguins were 1-for-4.
Vancouver opened the scoring 13:52 into the first period, seconds after Pittsburgh killed off Pierre-Olivier Joseph's slashing penalty.
Garland used a fake slap shot to dish the puck to Mikheyev at the bottom of the faceoff circle and the Russian winger tapped it over to Pearson. Stationed at the side of the crease, he tapped it in behind Jarry and put the Canucks up 1-0 with his first goal of the season.
Earlier Friday, Vancouver picked up defenceman Ethan Bear and forward Lane Pederson from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick. It's the second deal Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin has completed this week, coming after he sent goalie Michael DiPietro and defensive prospect Jonathan Myenberg to the Boston Bruins for forward Jack Studnicka on Thursday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 28, 2022.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press