VANCOUVER — Bo Horvat’s nerves were frayed in the final seconds of the Vancouver Canucks’ battle against the Anaheim Ducks on Monday.
The Canucks (27-28-8) were up 4-0 with just over a minute to go when the centre was called for interference. As he sat in the box, Horvat worried the penalty would spoil a clean sheet for goalie Jacob Markstrom.
It didn’t. The six-foot-six Swede stopped all 29 of Anaheim’s shots in the 4-0 win and posted his first shutout of the season. Kevin Boyle made 25 saves for the Ducks (24-30-9).
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“I felt so bad when (the penalty) happened,” Horvat said. “I was just so happy that he ended up getting the shutout there. I wouldn’t have been able to forgive myself if that went in.”
Canucks coach Travis Green said he hadn’t realized his starting netminder hadn’t posted a shutout yet this season.
“I didn’t even know that was his first, to be honest,” he said. “He’s had such a good year that he probably deserves a few more and you are happy for him.”
The milestone was nice, but the victory was a total team effort, Markstrom said.
“It means that we won the game,” he said. “It’s nice to get one, for sure, but that mirrors how we played defence and played the game.”
Vancouver has struggled offensively recently and Monday’s win marked the team’s first regulation victory in 11 games. It also snapped a three-game losing skid for a squad that’s hunting for a Western Conference wild-card spot.
“Big win,” Markstrom said. “We’ve been playing good but haven’t got the goals we wanted. Today I thought we played a really good game for 60 minutes and it shows on the board.”
One of the goalie’s biggest saves of the night came with just nine minutes to go in the game. Anaheim’s Derek Grant found the puck down low and Markstrom dove out to make the stop. The shutout was the third of Markstrom’s career. His last came against the Dallas Stars on Feb. 11, 2018.
Monday was also a big game for Horvat, who scored a pair of goals. His second of the night came midway through the third period after he dove to keep the puck in Anaheim’s end. Josh Leivo got it back to him in the faceoff circle and Horvat sent a rocket soaring past Boyle to put the Canucks up 4-0. The 23-year-old now has a career-high 23 goals this season.
Still, Horvat believes he has room to grow.
“I’m far from the peak of my career,” he said. “I think I still have a lot of work to do, a lot to improve on, and I’m just trying to get better day-by-day.”
Alex Biega and Nikolay Goldobin also scored for Vancouver. Goldobin has been in and out of the lineup this season as coaching staff challenge him to work on his game away from the puck.
It’s been a tough stretch, the right-winger said, adding that he wants to stay with the Canucks.
“I like this organization and I know coaches believe in me a lot. I like the guys here. I feel like I’m home here,” he said. “You always have barriers in your life but who’s strongest is who’s going to continue to work hard and who’s going to succeed in life.”
Monday marked Anaheim’s third loss in a row and the defeats have grown frustrating, said assistant coach Marty Wilford.
“It weighs on you,” he said. “We are all competitive people and everybody wants to win so obviously it’s weighing on you and you can’t have that defeated mindset when you fall behind, like ‘poor me I can’t come back.’ We just can’t accept losing.”
Centre Devin Shore said he and his teammates aren’t ready yet to throw in the towel.
“As a group, as players, we are not going to feel sorry for ourselves or make excuses or let people make excuses for us,” he said. “It’s tough sledding but we’ve all been through situations where things don’t go your way and you can’t hope your way out of it. You have to work your way out of it.”
The Canucks begin a three-game road trip Wednesday, starting with a visit to the Colorado Avalanche.
The Ducks host the Chicago Blackhawks Wednesday night.
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