Bo Horvat added two goals to his stat sheet Tuesday night, but said he’d give them up for a different result.
The Vancouver Canucks’ captain has 10 points (eight goals, two assists) in 10 games to start the season. His team, however, continues to flounder and dropped a 5-2 decision to the visiting New Jersey Devils on Tuesday.
“Obviously the puck’s going in right now. But I’d rather be getting wins than scoring goals right now. I’d rather have none and be 9-0-0,” Horvat said. “But it’s not the way it’s going right now. And we’ve got to put this one in the past and keep plugging away here.”
The loss snapped a two-game win streak for the Canucks (2-6-2), who lost seven in a row to start the NHL campaign.
The record shows players aren’t giving enough right now, said head coach Bruce Boudreau.
“We need our veteran guys and our better players to be better players consistently, every day, not just one good game here and one good game there,” he said. “And that goes not only for (defencemen) but it goes for the forwards as well and the goaltending as well.”
The Devils (7-3-0) stretched their win streak to four straight games for the first time since October 2018.
Yegor Sharangovich and Jack Hughes each scored and notched an assist, while Nico Hischier, Michael McLeod and Dawson Mercer also found the back of the net.
Thatcher Demko stopped 32-of-36 shots for Vancouver and New Jersey netminder Mackenzie Blackwood made 22 saves.
“We just take it one day at a time, one game at a time and I think we’ve been doing a good job of capitalizing on our chances as of late and really limiting stuff that the other team was getting in our end,” Blackwood said. “Tonight we did a good job of burying chances.”
Boudreau pulled his goalie in favour of an extra attacker after Ryan Graves was called for holding with 3:34 left on the game clock.
The move paid off when Horvat buried his second of the night with a one-timer from the high hash marks at the 17:12 mark, cutting the deficit to 4-2.
Demko stayed off the ice and Hughes sent a puck sailing into the empty net with 62 seconds left to play.
The home side bit into New Jersey’s advantage with a power-play tally 16:23 into the second. Miller put the puck on Horvat’s tape and he sent a slap shot past Blackwood to make it 4-1.
The Canucks went 2-for-5 on the power play and the Devils were quick to capitalize on their lone chance with the man advantage.
Vancouver struggled earlier in the second, giving up two goals in two minutes and 12 seconds.
The first came on a Canucks power play when blue liner Oliver Ekman-Larsson allowed Sharangovich and Mercer to get away on a short-handed two-on-one. Mercer put a puck in behind Demko to make it 3-0 at the 9:25 mark.
Just over two minutes later, New Jersey broke into the Vancouver zone with yet another two-on-one, this time with Sharangovich finishing.
Coaching staff have repeatedly discussed two-on-ones with the Canucks, Boudreau said.
“We go over them, we show them what they shouldn’t be doing, what good teams do, how they stop them,” the coach said. “Of course we’re not just sitting there and saying, ‘Oh, well, we’re not that good at it and let’s quit.’ We’re working at it all the time and showing video on it all the time.”
New Jersey took a 2-0 lead into the second thanks to McLeod’s first goal of the season.
Miles Wood’s shot hit Demko and the goalie couldn’t hang on to the rebound, with the puck popping loose to McLeod, who shot it into the net 18:04 into the frame.
An offensive-zone penalty proved costly for the Canucks early in the first. Tanner Pearson was called for hooking 4:28 into the game and eight seconds later, the Devils were on the board.
Stationed at the top of the faceoff circle, Jesper Bratt blasted a pass to Hischier back door and New Jersey’s captain tipped it in for his fifth goal of the season.
Bratt was credited with an assist, extending his season-opening points streak to a franchise record-tying 10 games (four goals, 12 assists).
“I think (Bratt’s) playing a team game and he’s getting rewarded,” said Devils coach Lindy Ruff.
“He’s taking advantage of the opportunities and he’s finding a way every night to get on the board.”
Defenceman Ethan Bear and centre Jack Studnicka made their debuts for Vancouver after being acquired in separate trades last week. Star blue liner Quinn Hughes returned to the lineup after missing four games with a lower-body injury.
The Canucks wore their new navy blue “Johnny Canuck” reverse retro jerseys. The sweaters pay homage to the team’s namesake, a lumberjack-looking character called Johnny Canuck, which served as the team’s logo when it entered the Western Hockey League in 1945.
The Canucks continue a four-game homestand Thursday when they host the Anaheim Ducks. The Devils take on the Oilers in Edmonton the same night.
Gemma Karstens-Smith/The Canadian Press