Thursday, March 23

JT Miller’s big night leads Canucks past Canadiens 5-3

VANCOUVER — On a desperate hockey team JT Miller is proving to be one of the most dangerous Vancouver Canucks.

VANCOUVER — On a desperate hockey team JT Miller is proving to be one of the most dangerous Vancouver Canucks.

Miller scored a big goal on a great individual effort in the third period and collected three assists to lead the Canucks to a 5-3 win over the Montreal Canadiens Wednesday night that helped keep Vancouver’s thin NHL playoff hopes alive.

“We have to do that every game,” said Miller, who extended his points streak to 10 games, collecting 21 points on seven goals and 14 assists. “It’s not going to be perfect all the time.

“We need to find a way to get two points. We have to be desperate every game.”

Elias Pettersson and Brock Boese, both on the power play, and Travis Hamonic also scored for the Canucks (29-23-6). Bo Horvat added an empty-net goal. Vancouver has won three straight games and are 8-2-0 in their last 10.

Artturi Lehkonen scored twice and had an assist while Rem Pitlick had a goal and two assists for the Canadiens (15-35-7), who suffered just their second loss in the last nine games. Lehkonen has six goals and two assists in his last five games.

With 64 points, the Canucks trail the Dallas Stars by three points for the final wild-card playoff spot in the Western Conference. Vancouver also must leapfrog over the Edmonton Oilers who have 66 points.

The Canucks have played two more games than Dallas.

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“All of us want to make the playoffs,” Pettersson said. “When you make the playoffs, you don’t know what can happen.

“We’re excited for that, but we have to live in the moment, take it day by day, not focus on we have to win this amount of games. We’ve just got to focus on what we can control.”

Miller gave the Canucks at 3-2 lead early in the third period when he stole the puck off Montreal’s Cole Caufield at the blue line, skated in alone, then wired a wrist shot that beat Montreal goaltender Sam Montembeault over the glove hand.

“I probably got away with a slash,” said Miller who has 67 points, including 23 goals, this season. “I knew who ever the D-man was he would probably beat me to the net. I just tried to let it rip as hard as I could.”

Miller also assisted on Pettersson’s power-play goal just a few minutes later, making a pretty drop pass that helped the slick Swede score his 18th of the season.

Pettersson said it’s a joy to watch Miller play.

“He’s playing amazing now, leading the team,” said Pettersson. “He’s always vocal, always working hard. He’s always keeping us in check. It’s great to have him.”

Coach Bruce Boudreau said Miller backs up his words in the dressing room with his play on the ice.

“That’s what makes the stars, stars,” said Boudreau. “In big moments they make big plays.

“It’s not always pretty but we’ve got the guys leading the team.”

It was a rollercoaster night for the Canadians. They scored the game’s first goal, fell behind, then battled back to make it 2-2 after 40 minutes.

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With the Canucks leading 4-2 late in the third period, Pitlick gave Montreal a chance, scoring with Montembeault on the bench for an extra attacker.

“We all thought it was a good game,” said Pitlick. “It was back and forth, and we almost climbed back into it at the end. We’ve been playing really good hockey and I think we’re all very comfortable with our game. We all believe in each other.

“We all understand we can be a really good team so we’re going to keep pushing forward.”

Montreal coach Martin St. Louis said mistakes cost his team.

“It was that kind of game you knew it wasn’t going to be perfect,” he said. “We were just trying to find a way to win that game. We just didn’t do that in the third.”

Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko stopped 22 shots while Montembeault made 28 saves.

Notes: Vancouver opened a seven-game homestand. … The Canucks dedicated proceeds from the $1 million 50/50 jackpot to the Ukraine humanitarian crisis appeal through the Red Cross of Canada. … Former Canadiens superstar Guy Lafleur, who is battling lung cancer, was named Wednesday to the Order of Hockey in Canada as a Distinguished Honouree for 2022. … Prior to the game, seven members of Canada’s 2022 Winter Olympic team were honored, including Cassie Sharpe , a silver medalist in halfpipe freestyle skiing, and Micah Zandee-Hart, a defenseman with the gold-medal winning women’s hockey team.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 10, 2022.

Jim Morris, The Canadian Press

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