VANCOUVER — It was a bounce the Vancouver Canucks felt they deserved.
Having lost three in a row and coming off a demoralizing 8-6 defeat where Vancouver blew a 5-2 lead in Carolina to close out a bitterly disappointing 1-4-0 road trip, Horvat snapped a 2-2 tie after Markus Granlund‘s attempted dump in on a power play hit the shaft of linemate Loui Eriksson‘s stick at the blue line and caromed towards the Lightning crease.
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A surprised Andrei Vasilevskiy made a reaction save, but a hard-charging Horvat jumped on the loose puck before roofing his ninth of the season at 7:46.
“We’ve had so many bounces that haven’t gone our way this year,” said Horvat, who added an assist. “To get one like that, it was kind of a relief.”
The breakthrough was Horvat’s first goal and second point in the last eight games.
“It was almost one of those ones where you’re like: ‘Wow, that went our way for once,”‘ said Miller. “He’s got a flat-footed goaltender and a lot of net. He’s not going to miss too many times.”
Alexandre Burrows, with a goal and an assist, Brandon Sutter and Luca Sbisa also scored for Vancouver (13-16-2), while Eriksson and Granlund each added two assists.
With the Canucks and under-fire head coach Willie Desjardins getting ripped by fans and local media after that collapse in Carolina, former defenceman Mattias Ohlund — who was inducted into the club’s Ring of Honour during a pre-game ceremony — spoke with Vancouver’s current roster on Friday morning.
“A lot of the things he said made sense,” said Burrows. “Where we are at right now we can’t get too high, we can’t get too low. We have to embrace it, keep fighting and work. It’s not going to be easy.”
Victor Hedman and Cory Conacher had the goals for Tampa Bay (15-14-2), while Vasilevskiy made 21 stops.
“You can’t say we didn’t play well,” said Lightning head coach Jon Cooper, whose team dropped to 2-7-1 over its last 10 games. “They had 10 scoring chances the whole game.
“We’re playing pretty well defensively, unfortunately some of these turnovers are ending up in the back of our net.”
Miller, who allowed six goals on 30 shots before getting pulled against the Hurricanes, made a nice save on Hedman with under eight minutes to go in regulation to keep the Canucks in front before Burrows’ sixth into an empty net.
The Lightning, who lost 5-1 to Vancouver on Dec. 8, trailed 2-1 after 40 minutes, but got back on even terms 3:53 into the third on the man advantage when Conacher ripped his first of the year past Miller.
But the Vancouver goalie stopped Jonathan Drouin on 2-on-1 rush moments later before Horvat won it thanks to that fortunate bounce.
“We had good energy,” said Miller. “Tough to give one up on the penalty kill to start the third, but I thought we battled back. Once we got the lead the neutral zone and our zone was pretty much sealed up.”
Down 1-0 after the first, Sutter got Vancouver on the board at 1:37 of the second after Eriksson forced a turnover in the Tampa Bay zone. The puck fell to Granlund, who fed Sutter from his knees for a one-timer that beat Vasilevskiy under the blocker for his eighth.
Sbisa then gave the Canucks their first lead with 6:35 left in the period after pivoting in the Tampa Bay zone, feeding Burrows at the point and popping home the rebound for the defenceman’s first of the campaign.
“We didn’t stray away from our game plan,” said Sbisa. “It was a statement game.”
Vancouver’s banged-up blue line got a boost with the return of Christopher Tanev, who missed the last 20 games with a lower-body injury, but fellow defenceman Erik Gudbranson sat out with an undisclosed injury. Tanev led all skaters with 23 minutes 30 seconds of ice time.
The Lightning, meanwhile, were without a number of key players up front, including Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov. Ryan Callahan missed his eighth straight game for Tampa Bay, while Steven Stamkos remains out long-term with a knee injury.
Despite that missing firepower, the Lightning opened the scoring 6:31 into the first on a forgettable shift for Vancouver’s Nikita Tryamkin. The hulking defenceman needlessly iced the puck to pin a tired group in the Canucks’ zone, and then accidentally bumped Miller as Hedman was scoring his sixth.
Vancouver looked to have grabbed a 1-0 edge early in the first on a power play, but Ben Hutton’s goal was waved off after a Lightning challenge for offside.
“We played a full 60 minutes,” said Horvat. “To play like we did tonight after that loss (in Carolina) gives our group a lot of confidence.”
Notes: Ohlund played 11 seasons for Vancouver and owns the all-time franchise mark for goals (93) and points (325) by a defenceman. … Canucks blue liner Alexander Edler remains on the sidelines with a broken finger. … Eriksson now has 300 assists in his career. … Conacher was called up from the AHL on Wednesday. … Palat and Kucherov are expected to also miss Tampa Bay’s game in Edmonton on Saturday, but Callahan could return. … Vancouver hosts Columbus on Sunday afternoon.