Miller scores in SO as Canucks top Islanders

VANCOUVER – With two desperate teams fighting for a playoff spot, the Vancouver Canucks were able to dig deep when they needed it the most.

J.T. Miller scored the only goal in the shootout as the Canucks defeated the New York Islanders 5-4 Tuesday to crawl back into a wild card playoff spot in the tight NHL Western Conference.

“I think in the third, the difference today was we brought another level,” said Miller, who won the game with a wristshot from the faceoff circle.

“I think we have played a lot of the same hockey here for the last six games or so. It’s just nice to come out on top. We are doing a lot of good things.”

Tyler Toffoli had a goal and an assist for the Canucks (36-27-6) who won for the second time in seven games.

“It’s two desperate teams trying to win games, to make the playoffs,” said Toffoli, who has six goals and four points in the 10 games since being traded to Vancouver from L.A. on Feb. 17.

“We’ve been playing playoff hockey ever since I got here. It’s that time of the year. It was nice to for us to pull through tonight.”

Adam Gaudette, Zack MacEwen and Bo Horvart, on the power play, also scored for Vancouver. Defenceman Alex Edler had two assists to give him 401 NHL points.

The win gives the Canucks 78 points and moves them into a tie with Winnipeg and Nashville for the two wild card playoff spots in the West.

Brock Nelson had a pair of goals for the Islanders (35-23-10), who continue a season-long seven-game winless streak (0-4-3). Andrew Ladd and Jordan Eberle also scored for New York while Derick Brassard had two assists.

The Islanders have 80 points and remain one point behind Carolina and Columbus for the two wild card spots in the East.

It wasn’t a win, but the Islanders were happy to get a point and stay in the playoff hunt.

“You worry about the points you can get,” said New York coach Barry Trotz. “We put a point on the board. We’ll just have to look at trying to get another point or two the next game. Keep doing that and then look up after 82 games and see were we are.”

The Islanders scored first, let that lead slip away, but fought back to tie the game three times.

“I thought we did a pretty good job a couple times battling back,” said Nelson, who has 26 goals on the season. “We need that right now, especially the way things are going for us.

“It seems like we’re close, but we’ve just got to find that puck or that play to kind of get us over the hump and turn it around.”

Canuck goaltender Thatcher Demko, who had a career-high 45 saves, came up big several times. He stopped Matthew Barzal and Eberle during an Islanders’ five-on-three power-play in the first period. In the second he got a pad on a Barzal shot on a two-on-one.

“I’m learning a lot through this process,” said Demko, who if playing in place of the injured Jakob Markstrom. “Down the stretch we are going to have to be really sharp as a group and individually.

“It was a good win tonight.”

New York goalie Semyon Varlamov stopped 30 shots.

The teams combined for three goals in the first 2:41 of the opening period.

Ladd scored just 96 seconds into the game when he tipped in a Josh Bailey shot.

Vancouver struck 21 seconds later when Gaudette deflected a seeing-eye shot from Edler.

The Canucks went ahead at 2:41 when Toffoli took a cross-ice pass from Elias Pettersson and put a shot over Varlamov’s glove.

“It’s nice to score but getting a win at this time of the year is what we’ve been looking for as a team,” said Toffoli. “Winning is fun. Winning is contagious and we have to do more of it.”

At times the game was like two boxers exchanging punches.

“It seems like both teams had an answer for everything that was going on,” said Miller. “It was a super fun game. Those are the games you want to be in.”

NOTES: Forward Brock Boeser returned to the Canucks lineup after missing 12 games with a fractured rib cartilage. … The return of Boeser resulted in Loui Eriksson being a healthy scratch. … Markstrom, who has missed eight games with a knee injury, skated Tuesday morning. … Ladd’s goal was his first since Oct. 30, 2018. He’s only played 21 games in that time due to injuries. … Islander defenceman Johnny Boychuk remains day to day with an eye injury.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 10, 2020

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version had the wrong date stamp at the bottom.

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