Blue Jackets, Canucks hope to jump-start playoff aspirations

NHL

The Vancouver Canucks and Columbus Blue Jackets are on the edge of the playoff races in their respective conferences.

And both teams will be looking to snap two-game losing streaks when they meet Sunday in Columbus, Ohio.

The Canucks suffered a 4-2 defeat Saturday night in Toronto. They’re in third place in the Pacific Division, one point ahead of Calgary and two points ahead of a trio of teams — Nashville, Winnipeg and Arizona — that are tied for the Western Conference’s second and final wild-card playoff berth.

“We’re still good in the standings but we can’t accept playing good and still losing,” said Canucks forward Elias Pettersson, the reigning Calder Trophy winner as the NHL’s rookie of the year. “We have to win games and get points.”

Pettersson, who was held scoreless and without a shot in 21 minutes of ice time Saturday, shouldered part of the blame.

“We created enough to be able to score more goals, but it is what it is. I have to be better too; I’m not playing my best hockey now. It’s everywhere (I need to be better),” he said.

Goaltender Thatcher Demko, playing for the injured Jacob Markstrom, made 26 saves for the Canucks, who are 4-3-1 in their past eight games and trail the Vegas Golden Knights by six points for the division lead.

Canucks coach Travis Green said he felt his team, which twice rallied from a one-goal deficit, deserved a better fate in Toronto. The go-ahead goal was scored by Maple Leafs defenseman Martin Marincin just 18 seconds into the third period after he recovered his own shot after hitting the post from the high slot.

“We played a good road game, battled back,” Green said. “Bit of an unlucky goal, the third one. And it was a good response from our team coming into a tough building against a good team. Quite easily could have gone the other way.”

Canucks forward Tyler Toffoli had a six-game point streak end, including his first four games with Vancouver after being acquired from the Los Angeles Kings at the league’s trade deadline. Toffoli had 10 points (eight goals, two assists) during the six-game stretch.

The Blue Jackets, who have a one-point lead on Carolina for the Eastern Conference’s final wild-card berth despite losing 10 of their past 11 games (1-5-5), suffered a 5-0 loss Friday night against visiting Minnesota.

Goalie Joonas Korpisalo looked shaky in his first start since returning from a Dec. 29 knee injury that required surgery. He was replaced by Matiss Kivlenieks after the Wild’s fourth goal with 7:30 left in the second period.

“We didn’t have the ability to do anything tonight,” Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. “Forget offense, defense. That was just a bad game. We haven’t had many of those, but we had one tonight.”

Center Alexander Wennberg returned to the Blue Jackets’ lineup Friday, but they still have 10 regulars sidelined, including All-Star defenseman Seth Jones, top goal scorer Oliver Bjorkstrand, winger Cam Atkinson and goalie Elvis Merzlikins.

“The older guys need to show the way, show how we need to play,” Columbus defenseman David Savard said. “We’ve got to play physical, simple like a playoff team. We’ve got to treat every game as a playoff if we want to get in.”

–Field Level Media

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