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Pettersson pots three points as Canucks beat Sabres 3-2

Vancouver Canucks' Elias Pettersson (40) celebrates his goal against the Buffalo Sabres during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Tuesday, March 19, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck Vancouver Canucks' Elias Pettersson (40) celebrates his goal against the Buffalo Sabres during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Tuesday, March 19, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The Vancouver Canucks have talked a lot recently about standing strong in the face of adversity.

Words became action on Tuesday when the team withstood a late push to collect a 3-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres.

“That’s all we’ve really talked about lately, that we’ve got to be the team that doesn't go away," said forward J.T. Miller.

"We’ve got to be able to man up and respond. Things aren't gonna go our way down the stretch here every day. We’ve got to understand that it's gonna take a mentally tough group to win hockey games in the latter part of the season.”

The win kept Vancouver atop the Western Conference standings, one point ahead of the Winnipeg Jets and Colorado Avalanche.

Buffalo fell to five points back of the Detroit Red Wings, who hold the second wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference.

Canucks coach Rick Tocchet blended his lines Tuesday, playing star centre Elias Pettersson with Conor Garland and Nils Hoglander.

The move paid off, with Pettersson scoring twice — including into an empty net — and notching an assist. Garland added a goal for the Canucks (43-18-8), while Miller and Quinn Hughes each contributed a pair of helpers.

Rasmus Dahlin replied twice for the Sabres (33-32-5), who were coming off a 6-2 thrashing of the Kraken in Seattle on Monday.

"We gave it our all. It's a good team over there, (we're on) back-to-backs, we played our (butts) off," Dahlin said. "We should have scored when we had a chance on the power play. We had a ton of chances. It's the little thing right now, so we got to be better."

Dahlin cut the visitors' deficit to 2-1 during a stretch of four-on-four play after Vancouver's Tyler Myers and Buffalo's Jeff Skinner were sent to the box for slashing midway through the third period.

The Sabres defenceman wove his way past a pair of Canucks, then fired a backhanded shot past Vancouver netminder Casey DeSmith for his 16th goal of the season at the 9:53 mark.

"He's just highly skilled — the shot fakes and the toe drags, he's got he's got it all. He's got the hard shot, too," DeSmith said. "That was a world-class play by him and I would have liked to have it but, you know, at least we got the W.”

DeSmith made 15 saves on the night and earned his first victory since taking over the net from Thatcher Demko, who was sidelined by a lower-body injury last week.

Making his first NHL start since Jan. 24, Buffalo netminder Devon Levi stopped 31 of 33 shots. He was recalled from the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League on Saturday.

The young goalie admitted there was some pressure in taking the net when his team was fighting for a playoff spot.

"You can feel it a bit but that's what makes it fun. That's what makes this game meaningful," Levi said. "Coming in, you know it's a big game and the boys are relying on you and there's no better feeling than having that on your back and being able to give everything you've got for the team in a special moment.”

Tocchet liked the way his team refused to relent after Buffalo got on the board.

“I thought we protected the guts," the coach said. "That's a good hockey team over there, a lot of talent. And I thought we managed the defensive part of the game really well.”

The Canucks went up 2-0 with a power-play goal midway through the second after Owen Power was called for hooking.

Levi stopped a blast from Miller and the rebound bounced out to Pettersson in front of the net. He backhanded the puck up and over the Buffalo netminder at the 13:48 mark for his 32nd of the season.

Moments earlier, Levi stymied Ilya Mikheyev with a highlight-reel save.

With teammate Nikita Zadorov in the box for tripping, Pettersson created a short-handed two-on-one going the other way, then sliced a pass to Mikheyev. The Russian winger tried to wrap a shot around Levi but the goalie made a diving stop.

Power caught Mikheyev from behind on the play and was called for holding.

The Canucks were 1-for-5 with the man advantage Tuesday while the Sabres failed to score on four power plays.

Cashing in on the power play was "a step in the right direction," Pettersson said.

"We had looks to score on every chance that we got tonight. So that’s a good thing," he said. "And just keep building on it.”

Welcome home 

Zach Benson, who hails from Chilliwack, B.C., played his first NHL game in Vancouver, with dozens of friends and family members in the stands. Buffalo selected the 18-year-old left-winger 13th overall in last year's draft and he's registered nine goals and 14 assists through the first 59 games of his rookie campaign.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 19, 2024. Top Stories

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