VANCOUVER — Sweeping a three-game series against the Ottawa Senators has refreshed the Vancouver Canucks outlook as the squad heads back out on the road.
The Canucks (5-5-0) completed the feat with a 4-1 victory over the Sens Thursday. It was the third time in four nights that Vancouver topped Ottawa (1-6-1).
“It was a great win. It’s not easy to beat a team after you’ve beaten them twice. Their team was extremely hungry tonight," said Canucks coach Travis Green.
Brock Boeser had two goals and an assist in the victory, extending his record of big showings in games against goalie Matt Murray.
“Definitely I’ve had some success against him. I can’t tell you what it is, just shooting the puck and it’s going in the net right now. So it’s good," said the right-winger, who now has nine points (six goals, three assists) this season.
Boeser's first of the night came 5:30 into the game after Ottawa's Austin Watson was called for interference. The Sens winger vocally protested the call with some colourful language as he headed to the box.
The Canucks top power-play unit settled in with some patient passing around the perimeter before Boeser muscled his way around Ottawa defender Josh Brown and buried a wrist shot from the top of the crease.
Elias Pettersson scored and had an assist for Vancouver, while Tanner Pearson tallied a goal and Quinn Hughes chalked up two assists.
For the third game in a row, the Senators outshot the Canucks, this time by a margin of 36-to-25.
Vancouver netminder Braden Holtby weathered the onslaught, making 35 saves and tallying an assist.
Green said he and his staff are keeping tabs on the number of chances the team concedes.
“We gave up a fair amount of shots. I’d like to cut them down," he said. "We also played a team that throws a lot of pucks at the net, they go to the net hard. We gave up some shots on the power play the last few games. But it’s something that we have our eye on, for sure.”
The number of shots a goalie faces can be misleading, Holtby said, giving credit to his teammates for limiting the number of options opponents have had on a given shot in recent games.
“I think from the west to the east, the style of game is a little different in terms of quantities. And our division is a mixture of both, so it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out," said the former Washington Capitals goalie.
Seeing different teams is one of things that Holtby said excited him about joining the Canucks in free agency.
"You get a little sick of seeing Pittsburgh every week," the former Washington Capital said with a grin." It’s fun and there’s a ton of talent in this division, especially. So it’s a lot of fun to challenge yourself against that.”
At the other end of the ice, Murray stopped 21-of-25 shots as Ottawa dropped its seventh game in a row.
Despite the final result, Sens coach D.J. Smith liked much of what he saw Thursday.
"We played the right way. I thought we played winning hockey," he said. "We didn't win tonight but that's our best effort of the three games for sure. ... If we play that hard every night we're going to start to win games."
The Sens had a prime opportunity to cut into the Canucks' lead when they got a two-man advantage with less than 10 minutes on the clock.
Vancouver defender Jalen Chatfield had been sent to the box for going after Ottawa's Brady Tkachuk when he hit Tyler Motte near centre ice. The pair had a brief tussle before both were handed penalties for roughing, and Chatfield given an additional two-minute minor for interference.
Just 30 seconds into the Ottawa power play, veteran Canucks defenceman Alex Edler was sanctioned for cross-checking Drake Batherson, leaving the Sens with a minute and 30 seconds of 5-on-3 hockey.
Ottawa got a few decent shots off across the stretch but none that caused Holtby much trouble.
The Senators' lone marker came from Thomas Chabot, an unassisted goal 14:15 into the second period.
Tensions boiled over at times on Thursday.
Brady Tkachuk left the ice in a rage in the final minute after dropping the gloves with Vancouver's Zack MacEwen. Both were given five-minute major penalties for fighting. Tkachuk continued having words with the Canucks bench as he headed for the dressing room, smacking the wall on his way down the tunnel.
Smith knows there will be some high emotions among his young players following another loss.
"I'm sure frustration is going to be there but these are young guys, a lot of them are trying to find their way in the league," he said. "So, we're going to be frustrated with results, but as a team we're starting to learn what it's going to take for us to win some games and I think that'll happen shortly."
Thursday's game was the last in a six-game homestand for the Canucks. The squad will now hit the road, stopping first in Winnipeg to face the Jets on Saturday.
The Senators will continue their western swing Sunday when they visit the Oilers.
NOTES: Adam Gaudette replaced Jake Virtanen in the Canucks lineup. Virtanen was a healthy scratch. … Ottawa defenceman Josh Brown played his 100th regular-season game.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 28, 2021.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press