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Canucks hold on for win over Sharks

Vancouver Canucks San Jose Sharks Andrei Kuzmenko Fabian Zetterlund - The Canadian Press

Vancouver Canucks forward Andrei Kuzmenko got an early gift for the holidays after being restored to his team's top line. He thanked his coaches by scoring two goals in a choppy 7-4 win over the San Jose Sharks.

Nils Aman, Sam Lafferty, Dakota Joshua, Pius Suter and Quinn Hughes each added a goal to secure the victory and stave off a relentless San Jose comeback bid.

Kuzmenko scored both of his goals in the first period, the first coming less than two minutes into the game and the second roughly five minutes later.

"For me, it's a very important moment for the team to win," said Kuzmenko. "I understand I need to score more and get goals more."

His first came after seizing a puck redirected by the skates of San Jose's Mikael Granlund and firing home a wrist shot. His second came after tipping a long shot from J.T. Miller on the power play to double Vancouver's (23-9-3) lead.

Kuzmenko downplayed potential trade rumours linking him with a move after he was a healthy scratch for the fourth time this season.

"This moment, I didn't play for two games but it's not a problem. I very much trust the coaching staff," he said. "I need to concentrate on just hockey and not on (rumours)."

The Sharks (9-22-3) responded quickly to Kuzmenko's opening salvo, with Anthony Duclair getting San Jose's opener after firing through Granlund's legs on Thatcher Demko's blocker side. Tomas Hertl then scored the tying goal three minutes later after Demko kicked out a long shot but only as far as the Czech forward, who quickly cashed in.

Fabian Zetterlund added a third at 11:08 of the second period finding open space in front of Demko to finish the chance, while Joshua scored Vancouver's fifth in the final minute of the second period.

Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet acknowledged the fatigue creeping into his team leading into the Christmas break.

"We hung in there. There were some moments there we didn’t like," he said. "It’s nice (to win). We definitely need a break, guys need to get away from the rink for three days."

Vancouver defenceman Ian Cole said he thought his team showed maturity to stave off the comeback bids from the Sharks.

"I thought it was good. They've been playing well, they can score goals. They came back, we responded well," Cole said. "We showed a mature game that we could have let get away from us and we didn't."

The Canucks are two points ahead of the New York Rangers and Vegas Golden Knights for first place in the entire league, but have played three more games than their New York counterparts.

Cole said the moment is rewarding for the team.

"It's nice perspective in the sense we enter every day saying 'How can we get better, what can we fix, what can we do?'" Cole said. "I think having that microview is good on a day to day. You hit little breaks in time like this at Christmas and you can step back and see the bigger picture."

Jacob MacDonald added a fourth goal for the Sharks at 13:16 of the third period.

Hughes finished the scoring with an empty-net goal for Vancouver at 19:47.

Demko stopped 21 of 25 for Vancouver. Mackenzie Blackwood saved 19 of 25 for San Jose.


Canadian professional golfer Nick Taylor, who won this year's RBC Canadian Open with a 72-foot putt in a playoff, took part in a ceremonial puck drop to start the game. Taylor grew up in neighbouring Abbotsford, B.C. … This is the second time the Sharks and Canucks have taken part in a ceremonial puck drop this season, with the first involving Prince Harry. … This is the first time that Mario Ferraro has recorded three assists in an NHL game.


Canucks: Host the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday.

Sharks: Visit the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 23, 2023.