VANCOUVER — Less than a week after the first trade of his career, Tyler Toffoli is settling in nicely with the Vancouver Canucks.
“It feels good,” said the right winger, who scored his 19th and 20th goals of the season as the Canucks finished out a six-game homestand with a 9-3 win over the Boston Bruins. “Obviously, scoring a goal this early makes it a little easier, but at the same time, you've just gotta keep working.”
Linemate J.T. Miller finished the night with three assists, but said there’s still room for his chemistry with Toffoli to improve.
“Oh, there were a couple breakdowns,” he admitted. “He was wide open on a couple. But like we talked on Day 1, he knows to get into that shooting position. The puck's going to come to him and he's got a heckuva shot.”
With his own name swirling in trade rumours ahead of Monday’s 2020 trade deadline, Troy Stecher had a career-high three points, opening the scoring early in the first period and adding two assists.
“There's distractions, obviously, before the game and on social media and in the media,” Stecher said. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I have a job to do when I come here every night and that's to try to help this team win. I take pride in trying to do that and tonight was no different.”
“Stechy was great,” said Bo Horvat. “He was unbelievable, scoring a big goal for us to get us going. His playmaking ability took over after that. He's a great defenceman and he showed that tonight.”
Horvat scored his 19th of the year on the power play to give the Canucks a 2-1 lead in the first period, then fought Charlie Coyle in the second.
“It was one of the stronger games I've seen Bo play,” said coach Travis Green.
“I think his game has been trending in the right direction. He's got a lot of tough matchups but he's starting to learn the little areas of the game, just the little details from a checking standpoint that for him pay off offensively as well.”
Adam Gaudette, Tanner Pearson, Loui Eriksson, Elias Pettersson and Jake Virtanen also scored for Vancouver, while Jacob Markstrom made 34 saves.
David Pastrnak tallied his with his league-leading 44th and 45th of the year for Boston, and Chris Wagner also scored. Tuukka Rask made 21 saves before being replaced by Jaroslav Halak in the Boston net with 13:32 left in the third period. Halak gave up three goals on eight shots.
“The way I look at it from a goalie's perspective, it's kind of one of those ‘when it rains, it pours,’ type of things,” said Rask. “When it's not bouncing, it's not. Doesn't matter if it's 2-1, or 9-3 or 15-3, it's a loss. Move on and try to keep it tight next game.”
The loss was the first in six games for the Bruins (39-12-12), who were wrapping up a four-game road trip. Boston maintains a five-point edge over the Tampa Bay Lightning at the top of the NHL standings.
“Listen, you're going to have games like this, so I'm not going to lose sleep over this hockey game,” said Boston coach Bruce Cassidy.
“I even look at our schedule and sometimes you look at it and go ‘Boy that's going to be a tough one' at certain parts of the season. This was one that we thought would be a tough one and now Vancouver is fighting for first place, so that's just the way it is sometimes.”
Emotions ran high after Pearson and Eriksson extended the Canucks’ lead to 5-1 late in the second. Bruins captain Zdeno Chara tangled with Tyler Myers before Horvat traded punches with Coyle.
In the third, Pettersson scored his 25th of the year. Pastrnak and Wagner replied for Boston before Toffoli beat Halak twice. After Virtanen rounded out the scoring with 1:45 remaining, the fans at Rogers Arena chanted "We want 10!"
With the win, the Canucks (33-22-6) closed out their six-game homestand with a 3-2-1 record and moved into second place in the Pacific Division, two points behind the Vegas Golden Knights. They’ll start a four-game road trip on Tuesday in Montreal.
When Thatcher Demko briefly replaced Markstrom in the first period when he went for medical attention after an errant stick threaded through his mask, fans wondered if they’d see a repeat of Saturday’s earlier events in Toronto, when emergency backup goalie David Ayres earned the win for the Carolina Hurricanes in their game against the Maple Leafs.
“Yeah, no,” chuckled Markstrom after congratulating Ayres. “I want to go back out there. You don't want somebody to take your job here.”
NOTES: Oscar Fantenberg returned to the Vancouver blue line after missing five games with a head injury … Saturday’s 50/50 super jackpot was $1,015,830, for a take-home total of $507,915 for the winner.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 22, 2020.
Carol Schram, The Canadian Press