Vancouver Canucks Thomas Vanek, Sam Gagner, Ben Hutton and Troy Stecher celebrate Gagner’s second goal against the Chicago Blackhawks during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver on Thursday. (The Canadian Press)

Vanek, Boeser lead Canucks past Blackhawks

Vancouver forwards combine for nine points in win

VANCOUVER (CP) — Thomas Vanek had two goals and three assists, Brock Boeser added a goal and three assists, and the Vancouver Canucks snapped a four-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night.

Sam Gagner chipped in with two goals and an assist for Vancouver (16-17-5), which returned from the Christmas break with just its second victory in the last 10 games (2-7-1).

Jacob Markstrom made 30 saves to get the win.

Nick Schmaltz and Ryan Hartman replied for Chicago (17-14-5), which has lost three in a row after winning five straight. Backup goalie Anton Forsberg made 26 saves in taking the loss in place of injured starter Corey Crawford.

The Canucks snapped a 1-1 tie with seven minutes left in the second period when Vanek, who was robbed twice by Forsberg in the first, finally broke through.

Boeser played the puck behind the net to Gagner, and he found Vanek in front with a no-look pass that the veteran winger buried five-hole for his 11th goal of the season.

Boeser, who now has 16 points in his last 13 games, came close to adding to his team-high 20 goals earlier in the period, but his shot from inside Forsberg’s crease off a Gagner feed somehow hit the post and stayed out.

John Hayden and Patrick Kane both found iron at the other end for Chicago later in the period, but Vancouver led 2-1 after 40 minutes.

Gagner then gave the Canucks a two-goal cushion 1:27 into the third when he took a pass from Vanek and fired his sixth of the year and second of the night past Forsberg, who got the start after the Blackhawks announced Wednesday that Crawford will miss at least a week with an upper-body injury.

Gagner, who once had an eight-point game against Chicago as a member of the Edmonton Oilers in 2012, now has two goals and four assists during his four-game point streak after recording just a goal and an assist over his previous nine outings.

Vanek got his second of the night with 3:31 left when Boeser, who retook the NHL rookie scoring lead with his four points, fed a behind-the-back pass in front to set up his linemate’s 12th.

Vanek then played set-up man with 1:25 remaining on a slick back pass to Boeser for his 21st.

Hartman scored a consolation goal, his sixth, with 8.6 seconds left.

The Canucks opened the scoring at 7:03 of the opening period moments after their first power play of the night expired when Nikolay Goldobin, who drew the initial penalty, fired a shot towards goal that Gagner tipped past Forsberg for his fifth.

The Blackhawks’ 29th-ranked power play — which came in just 2 for 42 over its last 12 games, and 0 for 17 in its last six — finally connected on its second opportunity of the period to tie the score when Schmaltz found a soft spot in the slot and ripped his seventh over Markstrom’s shoulder off a feed from Kane.

Schmaltz’s goal came right after Canucks defenceman Alexander Edler blocked a Kane shot up high with the Chicago sniper looking at a wide-open net.

That sequence was one of a number of near misses in the period, with Forsberg stoning Vanek once with his goal stick and then again with a pad save where the puck trickled through his pads but stayed out.

Notes: Crawford also missed three games earlier this month with a lower-body injury. … The Blackhawks called up Jeff Glass from the AHL with Crawford out injured. The 32-year-old was a third-round pick of the Ottawa Senators in 2004, but has never played a game in the NHL after spending seven seasons in the KHL from 2009-10 to 2015-16. … Chicago lost forward Artem Anisimov to an undisclosed injury in the first period.

—-

Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

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