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Boeser moves into tie for NHL scoring lead with hat trick; Canucks top Lightning

Brock Boeser Vancouver Canucks Brock Boeser - The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER — Canucks star Brock Boeser had a chance to complete a hat trick against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the dying minutes of the third period with an empty net in sight, only to fire it wide.

He got a second chance moments later and converted for his second hat trick of the season in Vancouver's 4-1 win on Tuesday night. The empty-netter moved him into a tie with Toronto's Auston Matthews for the NHL's scoring lead with 21 goals apiece.

"It was a bad shot on the first one," he said with a chuckle after the game. "Obviously we lost to them earlier in the season and we need to start stringing some wins together before Christmas. It’s a good effort by the group.”

Canucks captain Quinn Hughes had three assists while forward J.T. Miller chipped in with two assists for Vancouver (19-9-1). Brayden Point had the lone goal for the Lightning (13-12-5).

Boeser scored his 19th goal of the season at 9:28 of the second period after Miller's initial shot was blocked by Andrei Vasilevskiy, allowing the winger to bat the puck in mid-air.

He added a second goal eight minutes later, firing his shot past Vasilevskiy on the blocker side after Hughes cycled around the net and found the winger open at the point.

“I was just kind of skating the ice and saw most guys watching (Hughes)," said Boeser. "You kind of naturally just start looking at him and don’t scan the ice for guys. I thought the high ice was open for a one-timer and it worked out well."

Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet praised the growth the forward has shown after struggling last season.

"He's just a smart guy, he knows the spots to go, and he's sharpened up his defensive game," Tocchet said. "He knows he still wants to get better at his defensive game but it's night and day from last year, his positional hockey. He's a smart kid."

The Lightning opened the scoring less than two minutes into the game. Brandon Hagel found Mikhail Sergachev with a cross-ice pass and he found an open Point at the side of the net.

Tampa Bay controlled the first period, outshooting the Canucks 11-4.

But Thatcher Demko strung together a series of saves to keep the Canucks from falling further behind. He finished with 28 saves, including back-to-back stops against Steven Stamkos and several saves along the goal line.

The win, the Canucks goalkeeper said, shows the growth of the team this season.

"I think for us as a group, this year we’re worried about us instead of in the past we were worried about our opponent," he said. "The confidence level is such that if we play our game, we know we’re going to compete with every team in the league right now."

Andrei Kuzmenko had an equalizer for the Canucks on their first power play of the game. He fired a one-timer past Vasilevskiy at 6:08 of the opening frame.

Vasilevskiy made 18 saves, with head coach Jon Cooper lamenting the fine margins of the loss.

"We had some looks and we had enough scoring chances to get more than one goal but we didn't," he said. "It's tough in this league at times."

UP NEXT: Vancouver will host the Florida Panthers on Thursday, with the game including a tribute to ex-Canuck Roberto Luongo.

The Lightning travel to Edmonton to play the Oilers on Thursday.

NOTES: Lightning defenceman Victor Hedman missed the game with an upper-body injury … Vasilevskiy had won five straight against the Canucks before Tuesday's loss … The win is Demko's first against the Lightning … J.T. Miller leads the Canucks in points against the Lightning with 15 in 18 games.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 12, 2023.