VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Oliver Ekman-Larsson had his first multi-point game of the season against his former team.
Ekman-Larsson had three assists, J.T. Miller had a goal and an assist and notched a scoring milestone and the Vancouver Canucks beat the Arizona Coyotes 5-1 on the night of Feb. 8.
"It was tough, to be honest with you. A lot of emotions and just seeing the guys on the other side. I thought it was going to be easier," Ekman-Larsson said. "I didn’t feel good in the game tonight. I thought I probably had more tape-to-tape passes with their team than our team."
In facing Arizona, he was playing the team that drafted him and where he spent the first 11 seasons of his NHL career.
"It’s funny how it works," said the 30-year-old Swede, who was dealt to Vancouver in a blockbuster trade last June. "You’re feeling good, you don’t get rewarded by putting up points and then you kind of have an off night and you end up with three points. So I don’t know how to explain that. But that’s hockey, I guess."
Miller, the Canucks’ leading scorer, collected his 400th career point as Vancouver improved to 21-20-6 in its return from the All-Star break.
Elias Pettersson and Bo Horvat each added a goal and an assist for the Canucks. Conor Garland and Brock Boeser also scored.
"If your best players aren’t your best players then you very rarely win. And I thought tonight they stepped up and did the job when they had to," said Canucks head coach Bruce Boudreau. "We’ll be better tomorrow but I thought the best players did what they had to and that’s score some goals."
Lawson Crouse scored for the Coyotes, who are 3-7-0 in their last 10 games.
Despite the result, Arizona head coach Andre Tourigny said he was happy with how his side played for much of the game.
"OK, we had that stretch in the second period, three or four minutes where we didn’t play really well, but at the same time we play against a good NHL team, you won’t have the momentum for 60 minutes," he said.
"You need to expect the other team to have good time and they had and we could not stop the bleeding but I don’t mind the way we fought, our forecheck was really good, we create a lot of new o-zone, their goalie was the best player on the ice tonight so that’s the difference."
Thatcher Demko made 35 saves for the Canucks. Karel Vejmelka stopped 24 of 29 shots for the Coyotes.
The game marked the return of Arizona’s Antoine Roussel and Loui Eriksson to Vancouver. The duo were part of a blockbuster trade in July that saw the Canucks send three forwards and a bunch of draft picks to the Coyotes in exchange for winger Garland and Ekman-Larsson.
Roussel and Eriksson were recognized on the big screen midway through the first period, drawing a mix of cheers and boos from the crowd.
Boeser capped the scoring with a power-play goal 11:25 into the third period after Ilya Lyubushkin was called for slashing against Miller. The right-winger deflected in Pettersson’s shot for his 13th goal of the year.
The Canucks converted on two of three power plays, while the Coyotes went scoreless on four chances.
Earlier in the third, Miller picked up the puck deep in Vancouver territory and skated the length of the ice, evading Arizona defenders and wrapping a shot around Vejmelka’s outstretched leg to put the Canucks up 4-1.
It was the veteran forward’s 16th goal and 46th point of the season.
The Coyotes cut into the deficit 13:31 into the second period, with Crouse sending a backhanded shot in behind Demko from the side of the net.
Vancouver took control of the game early in the second, scoring three goals in 2:22.
Garland found the back of the net first, collecting a slick pass from Noah Juulsen and dropping to one knee before unleashing a shot at the 3:48 mark for his 11th goal of the season.
Juulsen was credited with an assist, his first point for the Canucks. He added a second in third, helping out on Miller’s goal.
Moments after Garland’s goal, Vancouver got a man advantage as Phil Kessel was sent to the box for slashing Juho Lammikko.
The Canucks were quick to capitalize, with Ekman-Larsson firing a shot from the blue line and Horvat deflecting it in from the front of the net to put his team up 2-0.
Vasily Podkolzin set up the third goal of the night, slicing a slick pass to Pettersson. The Swedish center sprinted towards the net and blasted a wrist shot over Vejmelka’s glove from the hash marks 6:10 into the middle frame.
NOTES: Vancouver was without top defenseman Quinn Hughes, who was added to the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol on Monday. … Arizona’s Clayton Keller saw his six-game point streak snapped. He had eight points (three goals, five assists) during the stretch. ... Tuesday marked the first time the two sides have played since March 4, 2020.
Coyotes: At Seattle Kraken on Wednesday night.
Canucks: Host New York Islanders on Wednesday night.
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