Canucks stick with it, snap losing streak with ‘big character win’ over Bruins

Filip Hronek tied the game with just a minute remaining in the third period, Brock Boeser scored the overtime winner, and the Vancouver Canucks completed the comeback against the Boston Bruins 3-2.

VANCOUVER — All wins are worth two points in the National Hockey League, but they are not all equal. Saturday’s win for the Vancouver Canucks felt priceless.

Having endured four straight losses for the first time this season, the Canucks would have gladly taken a sleepy, ragged win over San Jose or Chicago. Instead, they earned an electric one against the Boston Bruins, overcoming a two-goal deficit in the third period before winning 3-2 on Brock Boeser’s power-play redirect from J.T. Miller’s shot-pass at 1:34 of overtime.

The emotional lift — far more substantial than mere relief that their losing streak was over — was as palpable in the Canucks dressing room as it had been on the ice when Boeser, so often stoic upon scoring, launched himself into Miller after his 33rd goal of the season.

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Boeser’s 32nd goal, from Nikita Zadorov’s pass, had started the comeback from 2-0 down with 7:11 remaining in the third period. Boeser has had four other goals nullified this season upon review because Miller either went offside or interfered with the goalie.

“He wasn’t by the net,” Boeser said of the OT winner. “Thank God.”

“I’m surprised I didn’t go offside before that, I guess,” Miller responded.

It was a night the Canucks could laugh again.

“If we want to play when we’re supposed to be playing — or when we want to be playing — it’s going to get hard,” Miller said. “We’ve been trying to talk about embracing the hardness. Whether we won or lost tonight, I felt that we just played an awesome 60 minutes. I just thought it was a helluva hockey game and it showed a lot of balls for our group today.

“That means more than anything, I think. Like I said, sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t. But. . . I feel like we outplayed one of the best teams in the league today for 60 straight minutes even though we were losing. So it feels good. Let’s not make it more than it is. . . but timing wise, it feels good just for the way that it has been going a little bit lately.”

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One of the Canucks’ best performances of the season, and one of their most important ones, followed one of their worst: Thursday’s 5-2 loss in Seattle, where coach Rick Tocchet questioned the effort of “some” of his players.

“We knew we weren’t good last game, and this was a response,” Boeser said. “It was the first time we lost four all year, and we didn’t want to make it five. That’s why, I think, being down 2-0, we just kept coming at them. I think we felt in the room that we were outworking them, and we just said after the second period, ‘Just keep going and hopefully we’ll get one.’”

After a scoreless first period, the Bruins got second-period goals from their third line (Danton Heinen) and fourth line (Jesper Boqvist) but were outshot 29-12 by the Canucks over the final 40 minutes of regulation time.

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Boeser finally got a puck past Bruin goalie Jeremy Swayman with a quick, stick-side shot from the slot, three seconds after Miller won an offensive-zone faceoff.

With Vancouver goalie Thatcher Demko at the bench, three minutes after making a huge rebound save against James Van Riemsdyk when the score was 2-1, Filip Hronek tied it with 1:11 remaining. He fired a slapshot through Boeser’s screen while the Canucks skated six against five.

After the Bruins were caught with too many players on the ice in overtime, it took the struggling (1-for-29) Canuck power play only 25 seconds to execute Plan A, with Miller skating downhill on the left side and slinging a laser on to Boeser’s stick, just beyond Swayman’s left pad.

“Obviously, four-on-three is easier than five-on-four because they’re missing that one guy,” Miller said. “I can get good depth on that side, and we’re just trying to pick on the weakside defenceman. The beauty is there’s not a lot of four-on-three, so on the pre-scout, (opponents) are not really watching what teams are doing four-on-three. We’ve scored on that play before. I’m sure people are going to know that now.”

Miller finished his titanic game with three assists, eight hits and a 13-6 faceoff record. Defence partners Hronek and Quinn Hughes combined for 11 shots, 27 attempts and more than 54 minutes of ice time. The Canucks outhit the Bruins 30-16 and outshot them 39-22. Boston beat Vancouver 4-0 at home just two weeks ago.

“Couldn’t ask for a better win, I think,” Canuck centre Elias Lindholm said. “You always get that extra good feeling when you come back late and tie it up. I thought towards the end there, they were just hanging on by a thread and we were just coming in waves. There was definitely a lot of things that were good: coming back against a really good team, the power play scored, we stuck with it and got rewarded, Demmer was good in net. I think there was definitely a lot of things that were good tonight that we can build off.”

The Canucks must prove Tuesday against Sidney Crosby and the Penguins that Saturday was a correction point, not merely a blip along a losing trajectory.

“We dropped four games there and we’re still at the top of the league,” defenceman Tyler Myers said. “There’s no reason for us to lose confidence or to get down on ourselves. I thought the way we responded tonight was huge for our group — the way we won tonight’s game. Big character win.

“I think it just proves to everyone in the room that if you stick with it, good things will happen.”

• Amid an uneven transition to the Canucks after his trade from Calgary, Lindholm may have found his spot in the lineup as a third-line centre. Instead of partnering Lindholm with Elias Pettersson, Tocchet deployed his best four centres in order: Miller, Pettersson, Lindholm and Teddy Blueger. That backbone down the middle should be a strength for the Canucks. Playing with wingers Conor Garland and Arshdeep Bains, Lindholm finished with five shots on net, three more than he amassed over the previous four games with Pettersson. He also won the key faceoff ahead of Hronek’s tying goal.

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