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Canucks’ Demko, Boeser resemble their regular selves in win over Kings


VANCOUVER — There are certain things you just don’t expect to hear these days.

Like, “These 4:30 pm sunsets are awesome. I just can’t get enough darkness.”

And, “I love what Elon Musk is doing with Twitter.”

Or even, “Bruce, there it is! Bruce, there it is!”

But what fun is life without surprises? Especially if you’re a fan of the Vancouver Canucks and have been surprised mostly by how many different ways they’ve been able to lose games this season.

While the whole National Hockey League seems to be waiting for “Bruce, there he goes,” Bruce Boudreau is not only making it through another week as coach of the Canucks, but he’s going to do it on a winning streak after his team beat the Los Angeles Kings 4-1 Friday at Rogers Arena.

“I live another day,” Boudreau said as he walked towards the microphones post-game.

When Brock Boeser bunted in the rebound from Sheldon Dries’ shot on a three-on-one to put the Canucks three goals up at 5:07 of the third period, fans reprised a golden oldie (and we don’t mean Boudreau) and began to chant “Bruce, there it is!” — last year’s victory tune that has been rarely heard this season.

Later, there was a wave, and not the “goodbye, Bruce” kind, as the Canucks, who may or may not have saved the coach’s job by hanging on to beat the Buffalo Sabres 5-4 Tuesday at the end of another alarming road trip, produced one of their best performances in handling the Kings.

Los Angeles did not generate much until the final period, when score-effect and the Canucks’ emotional baggage from losing six games by blowing multiple-goal leads, saw most of the play in the Vancouver zone. But for the first time this season, starting goalie Thatcher Demko looked elite again, finishing with 37 saves, 16 of them in the final period.

Boeser’s two goals — he made it 2-0 on a power-play tap-in from J.T. Miller’s pass halfway through the game — were his first two goals this season. So Friday was big for Demko and Boeser. But it was big, too, for Boudreau, whose team is finally showing glimpses of the one that finished 32-15-10 for him last season, raising expectations for this one.

We’ll see what next week brings, besides games for the Canucks against the Vegas Golden Knights, Colorado Avalanche and the Knights again. But Boudreau got to hear his song at least once more at home.

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“It’s nice because when it happens, it’s because we’re winning,” he said. “And when you’re winning, that’s a good thing. So I accept it.

“I think for the most part, it was our best game of the year. Our first period was just, I thought, excellent. Obviously, they had pushes and they’re a good team. . . (and) when you’re behind, you do make pushes. But I thought we held on really well. And I thought our goalie was really good.”

One of the top five goalies in the NHL last season and a darkhorse pick before this season for the Vezina Trophy, Demko allowed fewer than three goals for the first time. It was his second victory in 12 starts.

He told reporters it wasn’t the best he has felt in a game, but was the best he has felt after one.

“Emotionally for sure,” he said. “It’s always great to do it on home ice. It’s definitely something I’ve missed this year, so getting that one, yeah, it feels good.”

Demko’s pre-game save percentage was .874, 48th among 51 goalies who had played at least six games.

“Demmer has taken a lot of heat this year,” Boudreau said. “But, I mean, he was the one that sort of made the difference in the game. That’s great. When you get good goaltending, usually everybody else is playing well, too.”

Beaten four times on 24 shots, Kings goalie Jonathan Quick was fooled by Elias Pettersson’s wrist shot through his pads on a two-on-one that opened scoring 5:40 into the second period. Pettersson scored again on a beautiful cross-ice pass from Andrei Kuzmenko at 14:50, just 64 seconds after Blake Lizotte’s deflection had cut a 2-0 Canuck lead in half, to match Boeser’s pair of goals.

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But Pettersson had seven goals before Friday. Boeser, who vowed before getting injured in the pre-season that he would score 30 this year, had none.

“Anytime you’re supposed to score and help the team win and you’re not scoring, it weighs on you a lot,” Boeser said. “You go home and you think about it, you want to score and help our team win and so I was really happy that I got a couple for our team. It’s just a big weight off my shoulders for sure.”

There is still a lot of weight on the Canucks, who are just 6-9-3 as they head towards the Vegas-Colorado-Vegas buzzsaw that starts Monday at home. But they felt a helluva lot better towards the end of this week than they did at the start, when a 5-2 loss Sunday in Boston extended Vancouver’s losing streak to three games.

“I think the two biggest things to take away is that Boes got a couple there, and the monkey off his back,” defenceman Luke Schenn said, “and then, obviously, Demmer was unbelievable from start to finish. Those guys are such big parts of our team. It was a complete effort and to give up one (goal), I think that’s the bigger thing. Guys scoring four is great, but giving up one is even bigger.”

It was just the second time this season the Canucks surrendered fewer than three goals. It was also the second straight game — and third overall — that Vancouver penalty-killing was unblemished. Small steps.

Bigger ones, one direction or the other, will come next week.

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