February 4, 2023

VANCOUVER — After a week of disruptions and distractions, the Vancouver Canucks were finally able to focus on playing hockey and managed to reward new head coach Rick Tocchet with a win in his first game behind the bench.

VANCOUVER — After a week of disruptions and distractions, the Vancouver Canucks were finally able to focus on playing hockey and managed to reward new head coach Rick Tocchet with a win in his first game behind the bench.

Dakota Joshua and Sheldon Dries scored goals 34 seconds apart in the third half as the Canucks clinched a 5-2 NHL win over the Chicago Blackhawks Tuesday night from two one-goal deficits.

“It felt a little different having a new coach back there,” said Joshua, who scored his seventh goal of the season and struggled against Chicago’s Connor Murphy in the first half. “Everyone pulled together and wanted to take a step in the right direction.

“We all seemed to be on the same page for most of the night. We will try to continue that performance tomorrow (in Seattle).”

Tocchet was named the Canucks’ 21st head coach on Sunday after Bruce Boudreau was fired along with assistant coach Trent Cull. The Canucks hired Adam Foote as an assistant coach and Sergei Gonchar as their defensive development coach.

There was a mixture of boos and cheers as Tocchet was introduced to the crowd in the first period. The game was only 3:30 when a fan threw a Canucks jersey onto the ice.

The Canucks beat the Blackhawk 48-14 during the game and failed to score on five power play chances.

“The players bought into it,” said Tocchet, whose last coaching job was with the Arizona Coyotes from 2017-2021. “There have been some difficult circumstances in the past few days.

“There was a lot of emotion and headaches. I threw some things at her today, we also had longer meetings than I would like. I commend the players to take it and play well.

Andrei Kuzmenko scored two goals for the Canucks (19-25-3) who were on a three-game losing streak. Center Elias Pettersson and defenseman Luke Schenn both added two assists.

Bo Horvat, also short-handed, hit the empty net at 18:34 of the third game and set a career high with 31 goals in a season.

Patrick Kane and Sam Lafferty scored for the Blackhawks (14-28-4) who lost their second straight game.

“We knew they were going to come out really tough, new coach and all,” Lafferty said. “I thought we got through it a bit and had a setback, just not quite enough in the third.”

Kuzmenko scored his 20th and 21st goals in the second period in a 2-2 draw after 40 minutes.

The Canucks’ go-ahead goal came seconds after Chicago’s Andreas Athanasiou missed a good scoring opportunity in the Canuck end.

Defenseman Quinn Hughes sent the puck onto the ice. Brock Boeser tried a shot from a tight angle. Chicago goaltender Petr Mrazek stopped the puck, but Joshua chipped it over the outstretched keeper to lead 3-2 at 11:34.

In the following pass, Mrazek stopped a shot by Conor Garland. Dries deflected the rebound into the net with a shot between his legs.

Dries said it had been an emotional few days as the popular Boudreau awaited his fate.

“We have to change something here, too,” he said. “It starts with every guy and challenges everyone every night and in practice.”

Despite the coaching change, the Canucks’ playoff chances remain slim. Vancouver is 14 points clear of the last wildcard playoff spot in the NHL’s Western Conference.

Tocchet saw a lot of things he liked in the win but knows there is still a lot of work to do.

“You like the result, but it’s difficult for me to do it again,” he said. “It’s hard to win and you have to face the toughness. It’s hard to keep doing this stuff. It’s like a habit. You have to keep going.”

REMARKS

Tocchet had a practice day and a game day to prepare for the Blackhawks. …The Canucks wore special pre-match jerseys to celebrate the Lunar New Year. … Vancouver failed to score on a four-minute power play early in the first half when Chicago’s Seth Jones was challenged for high-sticking. … Kim Sim, Vancouver’s first Asian mayor, who Puck dropped in the opening ceremonial faceoff. ..Chicago center Max Domi was judged an inciting minor, major and 10-minute foul play fought for a fight with Vancouver’s Dakota Joshua at 8:13 of the second period. The Blackhawks were on a three-game winning streak on Sunday when they lost to LA. … Chicago forward Tyler Johnson, who has 14 points in 22 games, was placed on injured reserve after aggravating a left ankle injury.

NEXT

It’s a quick turnaround for the Canucks, who play in Seattle on Wednesday night. Vancouver returns home on Friday to face Columbus and then begins a four-game road trip in New Jersey on Feb. 2.

The Blackhawks continue their road trip with games in Calgary on Thursday and Edmonton on Saturday before returning home on Feb. 7 to face Anaheim.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on January 24, 2023.

Jim Morris, The Canadian Press





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