Boudreau salutes captain Horvat after Canucks double up Devils

VANCOUVER — For head coach Bruce Boudreau, it wasn’t just the three points Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat put up on Tuesday night — his actions off the ice spoke volumes, too.

“He was a true leader tonight,” Boudreau said after the Canucks doubled up the Devils 6-3. “They were taking it to us a little bit until (Horvat) scored that short-handed goal to start the third period. On the bench, he was vocal, he was a true captain tonight.

The 26-year-old center scored twice and notched an assist in the victory, and now has 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in his last 12 games.

“Obviously things are going in and helping your team offensively, you feel good about yourself,” Horvat said. “I don’t feel like I’ve changed my game a whole lot from the beginning of the year, it’s just a matter of it going in and things happening.”

Tanner Pearson added a goal and an assist, while Brad Hunt, Nils Hoglander and Juho Lahmmikko also scored for the Canucks (30-24-7), and JT Miller tallied three assists to extend his point streak to 13 games.

Jack Hughes had a goal and an assist for the Devils (22-33-5), Ryan Graves and Nathan Bastian each scored, and Yegor Sharangovich contributed a pair of helpers.

Thatcher Demko made 32 saves to snap Vancouver’s two-game losing skid.

Nico Daws stopped 17-of-21 shots for the Devils before being pulled midway through the second period. John Gillies made eight saves in relief.

The victory comes after the Devils routed the Canucks 7-2 in New Jersey on Feb. 28.

Vancouver sealed the score at 6-3 midway through the final frame when defenseman Luke Schenn sent a long bomb toward the New Jersey net and Lahmmikko tipped it in past Gillies.

The Devils started the third with just over two minutes on the man advantage after Canucks forward Tyler Motte was handed a double-minor for high-sticking Andreas Johnsson late in the second.

Having the power play split up over two periods wasn’t an excuse for losing momentum, said New Jersey head coach Lindy Ruff.

“We got fresh ice, we got fresh bodies, we’ve been able to go over what we want to do and we made a critical mistake and that hurt us,” he said.

Demko preserved Vancouver’s lead with a brilliant glove save to stop Hughes from collecting his second goal of the night at the 1:06 mark.

Quinn Hughes — Jack’s older brother — then sprang Horvat for a short-handed breakaway and the Canucks captain went top shelf for his 22nd goal of the season, putting Vancouver up 5-3.

For the elder Hughes, getting the victory was more about climbing the NHL standings than lording bragging rights over his sibling.

“It was nice to beat him finally but at the same time, at this point of the season, we needed a win so badly, it wasn’t really about that,” Quinn Hughes said.

After falling behind by two goals midway through the second, New Jersey took advantage of an odd play to bite into Vancouver’s lead.

A shot from Sharangovich hit Demko in the mask and as the goalie scrambled for the rebound, Bastian swatted the loose puck into the net from his knees, collecting his 11th goal of the season 11:55 into the second.

Pearson gave the Canucks a 4-2 cushion earlier the frame, directing a slap pass from defenseman Tyler Myers past an out-of-position Daws.

The goal prompted the Devils to swap Daws for Gillies.

Ruff said the move was not only about his goalie’s performance but about trying to swing the game’s momentum.

“Puck went through him on a couple of goals. He’s played well for us. But a couple things there and I thought we fought back well,” he said. “We got a big save right from (Gillies) right away and then we had our opportunities to probably change the complexion of the game but you got to give Demko credit, he made he made a couple really big saves for them at critical times .”

Just 17 seconds before Pearson scored, Horvat found the back of the New Jersey net.

He forced a turnover at the Vancouver blue line, creating a breakaway, then launched a long blast that trickled through Daws to put the home side up 3-2.

“That was just pure I don’t know what I’m doing, to be honest with you,” Horvat said. “I think that was my first slap shot goal, I’m not even lying. I was kind of gassed at the end of a shift and I knew I didn’t have enough strength to throw a good snap shot at him so I wound up and luckily it went in.”

The Devils tied the game up 4:25 into the second when Jesper Bratt flipped a high pass into the neutral zone. The play unleashed Jack Hughes on a breakaway and the star center sent a shot under Demko’s arm from the bottom of the slot for his 19th goal of the season.

Graves cut New Jersey’s deficit to a single goal ahead of the first intermission, whipping a shot from inside the faceoff circle that beat Demko cleanly gloved side at the 17:17 mark.

Vancouver went up 2-0 midway through the frame when Hoglander jammed the rebound off a Horvat shot into the Devils net. It was the Swedish winger’s 10th goal of the second goal just his second in the last 26 games.

After a string of slow starts in recent games, the Canucks opened the scoring 3:34 into Tuesday’s matchup.

Miller waited patiently in New Jersey territory before slicing a pass to Hunt. The defenseman blasted a slap shot from inside the faceoff circle to beat Daws and put Vancouver up 1-0.

The assist extended Miller’s point streak to 13 games, with 25 points (eight goals, 19 assists) going back to Feb. 12. He is the first Canuck to put up a 13-game point streak since Ryan Kessler accomplished the feat in 2010.

The Canucks continue their homestand Thursday when they host the Detroit Red Wings. The Devils will be in Calgary Wednesday to face the Flames.

NOTES: The Devils were 0 for 3 on the man advantage. The Canucks went scoreless on their lone power play. … New Jersey center Pavel Zacha went hard into the boards early in the first period and stayed on the ice for several moments before skating off with a trainer. He went directly to the Devils locker room and did not return to the game.

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