VANCOUVER — Despite a rough season, the Vancouver Canucks are heading into the all-star break on a high.
Elias Pettersson scored twice as the Canucks (20-26-3) took a decisive 5-2 victory over the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday.
The win capped an emotional week that saw Vancouver fire head coach Bruce Boudreau and replace him with Rick Tocchet.
“It's been a long year up until this point, I'm sure everyone in the league feels like it," said defenceman Quinn Hughes. "And I think everyone was excited for the break and was happy that we got a good one tonight. And we can kind of go into the break and enjoy and feel good about ourselves.
"Obviously, still lots of work to be done. It hasn't been a great season, but we'll enjoy the time off.”
Hughes had a goal and a helper and Bo Horvat contributed a career-high four assists, while Ilya Mikheyev and Dakota Joshua also scored for the home side. J.T. Miller and Brock Boeser each added a pair of assists.
Kirill Marchenko replied with two power-play goals for the Blue Jackets (15-30-3).
Vancouver's Collin Delia made 23 saves and Joonas Korpisalo stopped 29-of-34 shots for Columbus.
"“We just weren't really in this one," said Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen. "We didn't have as much energy really all game."
Columbus bit into Vancouver's lead midway through the third period when Tyler Myers was sent to the box for tripping.
Marchenko swiped at a puck from below the goal line, sending it into the back of Delia's leg before it popped into the net for the rookie's second goal of the night. He now has 13 goals in 26 games.
“Obviously he can score," centre Boone Jenner said of the 22-year-old from Barnaul, Russia. "He can put the puck in the back of the net. He scores in different ways and he gets it in an area, it's dangerous. He's got a real good knack for it and he's getting some big goals for us."
Pettersson put the Canucks up 5-1 with a power-play goal 12:52 into the final frame, firing a blistering shot on net from high in the face-off circle. Korpisalo got a piece of the shot but it dribbled across the goal line for Pettersson's second goal of the night and 21st of the season.
Joshua scored 8:20 into the third on an errant pass. The depth forward looked to send a puck across the slot to Brock Boeser, but the puck hit Columbus defenceman Adam Boqvist in the leg and caromed into the net to make it 4-1.
Vancouver took a two-goal cushion into the first intermission thanks to a lucky bounce.
Mikheyev unleashed a blast from above the face-off circle and his shot ricocheted off the end glass, hitting Korpisalo's skate and skittering into the net.
It was the Russian winger's 13th goal of the season and marked his 100th NHL point.
Earlier in the frame, a scrum erupted when Sean Kuraly slammed Vancouver's Andrei Kuzmenko into the glass, prompting a multiplayer tussle in the Blue Jackets' end.
Kuraly was called for boarding and Vancouver capitalized on the man advantage when Hughes sent a long bomb through traffic from the point. The tally put the home side up 2-1 at the 13:21 mark.
Both the Canucks and Blue Jackets went 2 for 4 on the power play Friday.
“(The power play) has been struggling lately," Pettersson said. "So today we – as boring as it sounds – but simplify and just get the puck to the net. I think that's what we did. And we had good looks and scored, too.”
An early penalty saw both sides score.
With Miller in the box for slashing, Horvat picked the puck off Patrik Laine and streaked down the ice with Pettersson on a two-on-one. The Canucks captain sliced Pettersson a pass at the hash marks and the Swedish centre wrapped it around Korpisalo's outstretched leg for his 20th goal of the season 1:25 into the game.
“Everyone was burying their chances for me. Just trying to get pucks to those guys. And thankfully they were going in tonight," said Horvat, who has a team-leading 31 goals on the season.
"I’m not the type of guy, especially in recent years, to be dishing the puck like that. But it definitely feels good to see them go in when I do.”
The Blue Jackets replied 43 seconds later when Marchenko, stationed in the slot, tipped in Boqvist's shot to tie the score at 1-1.
Laine also registered an assist on the play, extending his point streak to five games with two goals and six helpers across the stretch.
Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin announced after the game that Mikheyev is set to have season-ending knee surgery next week. He said the 28-year-old Russian winger suffered a tear in the anterior cruciate ligament of his left knee during a pre-season game on Sept. 25. Mikheyev is expected to be back in time for training camp in the fall.
Vancouver's now off for the all-star break. The Canucks will resume their campaign with a four-game road swing, starting with a matchup with the Devils in New Jersey on Feb. 6.
The Blue Jackets will take on the Kraken in Seattle on Saturday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2023.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press