VANCOUVER — John Tavares and the Maple Leafs aren't happy with how their western road swing ended.
After thrashing the Oilers three games in a row in Edmonton, Toronto struggled in Vancouver, dropping a 4-2 decision to the Canucks on Saturday.
“There’s still a lot of good things in our game, but in saying that, we had an opportunity to make this a real great road trip and it ended up only being a good one," Tavares said.
It was the second consecutive loss for the Leafs, coming after the Canucks beat them 3-1 on Thursday. The skid marks the only time this season Toronto has suffered back-to-back defeats in regulation.
“It just goes to show that anyone in our division can beat you on any given night," said Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe. "And we’ve got to be good all the time and stay with the process that works for us. Go off script and you get the results you get here.”
Toronto (18-6-2) held a 2-1 lead going into the third period Saturday, thanks to goals from Tavares and Jimmy Vesey. But Vancouver responded with a trio of unanswered strikes.
“When you only score two goals, the games are fragile and you have to take care of them. And we didn’t do that very well here," Keefe said.
The Leafs started the final frame strong, not allowing Vancouver a single shot on net for the first six minutes.
The Canucks caught a break when William Nylander sent a puck sailing over the glass as he charged down the ice and was called for delay of game.
Brock Boeser sent a blast from near the blue line through traffic in front of the Leafs net, and Bo Horvat tipped it in past Frederik Andersen to knot the score at 2-2.
Boeser registered his 100th career assist on the play.
He got another helped 42 seconds later, picking the puck of a Toronto stick deep in the Leafs' zone and firing a shot at Andersen. The goalie made the stop but J.T. Miller got to the rebound and rifled it in to the back of the net.
Miller and Boeser each had a goal and two assists for Vancouver (11-15-2), while Horvat registered one of each. Nils Hoglander also scored, clanking the puck off the cross bar and in for his fifth goal of the season with just over three minutes left on the game clock.
Everyone in the Canucks locker room knows Saturday night's win was a special one, Miller said.
"It means a lot to us. We take a lot of pride in beating a team like that at home twice when we really need wins," he said.
"We've talked a lot over the last three weeks or so that we're playing well but not getting the results, and I think this is a perfect way, a couple bounces here and there, the power play was good, the penalty kill was good and you win the game against a good team."
Vancouver was 2-for-2 on the power play Saturday. Toronto couldn't convert on its lone opportunity with the man advantage.
Andersen had 27 saves for Toronto and Vancouver’s Thatcher Demko stopped 37-of-39 shots.
Saturday marked the first time since Jan. 30 that the Canucks have notched back-to-back wins.
It's a result that will give the team confidence, said Vancouver coach Travis Green.
"I do think our team has been feeling good about their game. They haven't been getting the results and that's been probably a mental fight with themselves," he said.
"No matter what, even when you know you're playing well and you haven't won, it does get a little bit draining on you mentally, so this should help hopefully. But I think our group also believes that they're a good team and they can play with anyone."
NOTES: Canucks centre Elias Pettersson missed his second straight game with an upper-body injury. He's considered day-to-day. … Vancouver defenceman Alex Edler played his 900th career game. … Before the game, a video tribute commemorating the life of Walter Gretzky was shown on the big screen. A moment of silence followed.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 6, 2021.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press