By Nick Wells, The Canadian Press on December 23, 2023.
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 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.
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.
But the Sharks (9-22-3) responded quickly, 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 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.
Jacob MacDonald added a fourth goal for the Sharks at 13:16 of the third period.
Quinn 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. “¦ The Canucks head into the NHL Christmas break leading the entire Western Conference with 49 points, two more than the Vegas Golden Knights, and three more than the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche. “¦ This is the first time in the NHL that Mario Ferraro has recorded three assists in a 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.