NHL: After long homestand, Canucks face defending champion Knights

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The Vancouver Canucks will play their first road game in almost a month on Tuesday night, when they begin a three-game trip at the reigning Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights.

Coincidentally, Vancouver’s last road contest also was in Las Vegas, when it defeated the Golden Knights 3-1 on March 7.

The Pacific Division-leading Canucks (46-20-8, 100 points) finished a marathon nine-game homestand on Sunday with a 3-2 victory over Anaheim. The win came just hours after the Canucks clinched their first playoff berth in four seasons when St. Louis lost 4-0 at home to San Jose.

Dakota Joshua scored two goals, including the game-winner with 2:13 left in the third period, J.T. Miller had two assists and Brock Boeser scored his 38th goal to lead Vancouver in the win over the Ducks. Arturs Silovs made 22 saves for his first win of the season and fourth of his career.

Vancouver finished its homestand 5-3-1 but suffered back-to-back losses to Los Angeles (3-2) and Dallas (3-1) before the win over struggling Anaheim. That may explain why Miller, no doubt upset that Vancouver blew an early 2-0 lead, wasn’t exactly in a celebrating mood afterward.

“We need to focus on the next game more importantly right now and not look ahead because if we play like we did tonight, we’re going to lose most games,” Miller said. “We need to make sure we’re focused on the present, not worried about (the playoffs).”

Vancouver is trying to hold off surging Edmonton for the top spot in the Pacific and could make a run for the Presidents’ Trophy with a strong finish. The Canucks have amassed 17 more points than last season (83) with eight more games left.

“It does mean a lot, especially with how the last couple of years have been,” defenseman Quinn Hughes said. “I don’t think we were very good (against Anaheim) so we’ve got to ramp it up a bit here, but it’s nice that we’re going to be (in the playoffs).

“For me, I’m just focused on finishing strong and as a group what we can do to go into playoffs playing our best hockey. That starts in Vegas and wherever we are next (Arizona on Wednesday). It’s going to be a massive trip for us.”

The game with Vancouver is just a short pit stop for Vegas (41-25-8, 90 points), which is in a stretch that sees it play seven of eight games on the road.

The Golden Knights finished an impressive four-game trip against playoff contenders St. Louis, Nashville, Winnipeg and Minnesota by capturing seven of a possible eight points (3-0-1). The trip concluded with a 2-1 come-from-behind overtime win against the Wild on Saturday afternoon. Jonathan Marchessault scored an empty-net game-winner for his 40th goal of the season after Minnesota pulled goaltender Filip Gustavsson in an effort to garner a much-needed extra point.

“One-hundred percent,” Marchessault replied when asked if the win capped Vegas’ best road trip of the season. “Seven out of eight (points), it’s the time of year we need to have to get another gear here. I think that’s when our team needs to rise to the occasion. … Our team has shown a lot of resiliency the past few weeks.”

–Field Level Media

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