First-place Canucks hand struggling Golden Knights 3-1 loss

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LAS VEGAS — Quinn Hughes, Phillip Di Giuseppe and Conor Garland each scored as the Western Conference-leading Vancouver Canucks maintained their stranglehold on the Pacific Division while handing the struggling Vegas Golden Knights a 3-1 loss Thursday night.

Canucks center Elias Pettersson got his 400th career point with a first-period assist. He’s the second-fastest player in franchise history to reach the mark, doing it in 390 games — 30 more than Pavel Bure. Pettersson also has 16 points in 14 career games against the Knights, most among active Canucks.

Thatcher Demko made 27 saves for the Canucks. J.T. Miller’s point streak ended at eight games, during which he had seven goals and seven assists.

Michael Amadio scored Vegas’ lone goal and Adin Hill made 32 saves.

The Canucks have won three in a row and have 89 points, 11 more than second-place Edmonton in the division and four more than Dallas for the conference lead. Vancouver is also one point behind Eastern Conference-leading Florida for the most in the NHL.

“It’s going to be important to sustain this type of play the rest of the year,” Demko said. “These are big games for us and a good job by our group to produce and execute.”

The Canucks are playing well at the right time, having allowed three goals over the past three games — all on the road.

“Obviously, road wins are huge, but I think the confidence to play with a one- or two-goal lead … every game this trip shows we can lock it down when we need to,” Di Giuseppe said. “We’ve got skill guys that can put the puck in the net, but in some tight-checking games, which will be (in) the playoffs, we’ve shown we can win with these tight ones.”

The defending champion Knights are 2-8-1 in their past 11 games, putting their playoff hopes in jeopardy. They’re holding on to the final wild-card spot.

“You get stretches like that in the season, but you’ve got to get out of it as quick as possible,” Knights center Nicolas Roy said. “It feels like we’ve been in it for a long time now.”

Vegas, though, managed to end their streak of giving up a goal at 13 periods when Vancouver didn’t score in the third. Until then, the last time the Knights held an opponent in scoreless in a period occurred Feb. 27 when Toronto was blanked in the first.

Vancouver jumped all over Vegas early, outshooting the Knights 12-1 midway through the first period and taking a 2-0 lead. Hughes, whose 74 points leads all NHL defensemen, scored on a power play from the slot and Di Giuseppe off a broken play on a delayed penalty. Nils Hoglander was tripped on the second goal and the puck slid over to Di Giuseppe on the right side.

The Knights, however, had their opportunities. Jack Eichel hit the crossbar on one shot and had another wind up Demko’s glove on a 3-on-2 rush.

Vegas broke through 3:50 into the second period when Amadio scored from the right point, but the Canucks again made it a two-goal game when Garland pounced on a rebound with 4:02 left.

“At this time of year, playoff hockey or whatever, you’ve got to really hang tough in those situations and I think we did,” Canucks coach Rick Tocchet said. “We’re happy with the road trip. We get a day off (Friday) and we’ll get right back at it.”

UP NEXT

Canucks: Host Winnipeg on Saturday.

Golden Knights: Host Detroit on Saturday to begin a nine-game homestand.

AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl

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