BUFFALO, N.Y. — Still stinging from opening their road trip with two lopsided losses, Bo Horvat and the Vancouver Canucks got back on track with a strong finish Saturday.
Horvat had a goal and an assist, and the Canucks scored three times on their first six shots of the third period en route to a 6-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres.
“We didn’t take those losses lightly,” Horvat said, referring to Tuesday night’s 9-2 loss at Tampa Bay, followed by a 5-2 loss at Florida. “We definitely weren’t happy with our games. So to bounce back like we did today is definitely huge for our group.”
Brock Boeser scored twice, including his 16th of the season 6:24 into the third. Jake Virtanen then made it 5-3 with his 13th 74 seconds later, and Loui Eriksson sealed the victory with an empty-netter.
J.T. Miller also scored for Vancouver, and Jacob Markstrom stopped 25 shots to improve to 7-1 in his past eight games.
Sam Reinhart, Zemgus Girgensons and Brandon Montour scored for Buffalo, which continued its midseason slide by dropping to 3-8-1 in its past 12.
Goalie Carter Hutton finished with 29 saves in his first appearance in nine games. Hutton dropped to 0-7-4 in his past 11 starts, a stretch in which he has allowed four or more goals six times. He is 6-7-4 on the season, with his last victory a 25-save performance in a 4-3 overtime win over San Jose on Oct. 22.
“I don’t know what to say right now, it’s frustrating. I think on all accounts everyone’s frustrated,” Hutton said.
Defensive breakdowns proved costly for Buffalo, which was unable to keep up with Vancouver’s speedy forwards.
The trouble for Buffalo began with Miller converting his own rebound to put the Canucks up 3-2 early into the third. The goal came after Vancouver’s Elias Pettersson forced a turnover by deflecting Sabres defenceman Jake McCabe’s pass attempt.
Girgensons then deflected in Kyle Okposo’s point shot to tie the game two minutes later, but the Canucks used their speed to regain the lead.
Christopher Tanev set up the go-ahead goal by Boeser, who was left wide open in the slot.
Virtanen made it 5-3 when the Canucks caught the Sabres flat-footed by bursting over Buffalo’s blue line. Adam Gaudette avoided a check and fed Tyler Motte to set up a 2-on-1 break. Driving up the right side, Motte backhanded a pass through the middle, allowing Virtanen to tap it into the open left side.
“I just think we were skating. When we’re on our toes and we’re skating, our game just seems to fall into place,” Canucks coach Travis Green said. “We play more direct. We skate as five. We forecheck, break out as five. It was a good game by everyone.”
The Sabres’ special teams finally contributed. Sam Reinhart scored a power-play goal for Buffalo’s second in its last 22 chances over a nine-game span. The Sabres also killed off both of Vancouver’s power-play opportunities after entering the game allowing six goals on opponents’ past 20 chances.
“It’s our 5-on-5 game that just unraveled here today,” Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said. “It was a hell of a hockey game until 14 minutes to go, and we turned it into a very painful, unacceptable finish.”
NOTES: This was a matchup of two franchises celebrating their 50th anniversaries. The Canucks won the first two meetings, beating the Sabres at Vancouver 7-2 on Oct. 27, 1970, and then winning 4-1 at Buffalo nine days later. … Sabres F Conor Sheary appeared in his 300th career game. … Sabres F Evan Rodrigues returned after being a healthy scratch for four consecutive games, which came shortly after the player went public in asking to be traded. … Canucks C Zach MacEwen rejoined the team after getting a game in with Utica of the AHL on Friday.
Canucks: At Minnesota Wild on Sunday.
Sabres: At Detroit Red Wings on Sunday.