Virtanen scores twice as Canucks beat Blackhawks 4-2
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Before the Canucks started their season, coach Travis Green said he wanted his team to “score by committee.”
Vancouver did just that Wednesday night in a 4-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks.
Jake Virtanen scored twice, Brendan Gaunce got the go-ahead goal midway through the third period and Antoine Roussel also found the net for the Canucks.
“It’s easier said than done, but any team that wins in this league has secondary scoring usually,” Green said. “You need guys at certain times to step up. It’s not one or two or three guys that can score every night.”
It was the first two-goal game of Virtanen’s career. At one point in the third period, it appeared he might have a chance at a hat trick, but the 22-year-old right wing chose not to push it.
“I didn’t want to go out of position or anything,” he said. “I wanted to make sure we weren’t getting scored on. ... We’d rather just secure the win and call it a day.”
Jacob Markstrom made 24 saves for Vancouver.
Brandon Saad and Jonathan Toews scored for the Blackhawks. Corey Crawford turned away 24 shots, but coach Joel Quenneville thought turnovers were a big problem.
“I think it was self-inflicted on the goals against,” he said. “Preventable, all of them, and they turned turnovers into the back of the net.”
The team got sloppy with the puck, according to Saad.
“A couple posts and unlucky bounces, but regardless we have to tighten up defensively,” he said. “We give that team that much rush chances and time and space and they are going to capitalize. It definitely wasn’t good enough defensively.”
Gaunce scored at 9:23 of the third after he snatched up a Chicago pass. The goal was the sixth of his NHL career, with the last one coming on Feb. 1.
“I just tried to get it off as quick as I could,” he said. “I knew (Crawford) was coming out and he was a little bit off because it was such a quick play and I just tried to get it up.”
Gaunce also assisted on Roussel’s late goal in his first game with the Canucks this season. He was called up Tuesday from the Utica Comets of the AHL to help fill out a roster riddled by injuries.
The 24-year-old said he was playing with a bit of a chip on his shoulder.
“I want to be in the NHL, and at the start of the year. I obviously wasn’t, so there was a reason for that,” Gaunce said. “You come in here with the mentality that you’re going to make a difference and you’re going to kind of make them have to keep you.”
Chicago got on the scoreboard first with Saad scoring his third of the season midway through the first period. The left wing beat Canucks defenseman Erik Gudbranson in Vancouver’s end and put a hard shot on net. Markstrom appeared to get a piece of it but the puck trickled in underneath him.
Virtanen responded in the 15th minute after the Blackhawks turned over the puck in the neutral zone. He picked up speed on a breakaway and put a high shot past Crawford.
The Blackhawks went back on top with a power-play goal early in the second after Canucks defenseman Michael Del Zotto took a cross-checking penalty late in the first.
Toews fired in a wrister from the top of the faceoff circle to give him 299 goals for the Blackhawks, sixth-most in franchise history.
Chicago is 30th in the NHL on the power play. Wednesday marked the sixth time this season the Blackhawks have scored with the man advantage.
Virtanen followed with his second of the night just more than 12 minutes into the second period. He scooped up a pass just inside the blue line and fired a quick shot past Crawford to tie it 2-all. Virtanen has five goals and two assists this season.
NOTES: Blackhawks star Patrick Kane sat out due to illness, the first time he’s been out of the lineup since breaking his collarbone in February 2015. ... Vancouver defenseman Troy Stecher left midway through the third after colliding with Chicago’s Brandon Manning. Green said Stecher went through mandatory concussion testing and is fine.
Blackhawks: At the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night.
Canucks: Host the Colorado Avalanche on Friday in the finale of a four-game homestand.