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Demko backstops Vancouver Canucks to 4-1 win over Calgary Flames

Vancouver Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko (35) stops Calgary Flames' Martin Pospisil, front left, during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Tuesday, April 16, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck Vancouver Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko (35) stops Calgary Flames' Martin Pospisil, front left, during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Tuesday, April 16, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
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VANCOUVER -

Head coach Rick Tocchet wanted to get his star goalie ample work in his return from injury.

Or at least that's what he told reporters after Thatcher Demko backstopped the Vancouver Canucks to a decisive 4-1 win over the Calgary Flames on Tuesday.

“I thought he played great,” Tocchet said after Demko stopped 39 shots in his first game since March 9. “That was the plan to let him get a lot of work tonight.”

The coach waited a beat, surveying the faces assembled in front of him, then smiled.

“I was joking,” he said. “Like nobody's laughing at that one? I thought it was pretty funny.”

There was an air of lightness around the Canucks Tuesday as Vancouver (50-22-9) not only beat the Flames (37-29-5), but captured the Pacific Division title in the process. It's the first time Vancouver has won its division since 2013.

The Canucks are still chasing the Stars for the No. 1 spot in the Western Conference, but need a win over the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday and a Dallas loss to the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday to accomplish the feat.

Tuesday marked the third time in franchise history that the Canucks have 50 wins on the season.

“It's a testament to the work that we've been able to put in this year. I don't think anyone's satisfied though,” Demko said. “So one more game here on the road, and then the games get really fun come next week. So really excited to gear up for that.”

Demko has been key to Vancouver's success this season and was again on Tuesday after missing 14 games with a knee injury.

“He's one of the best in the league and it's different having him,” said Canucks captain Quinn Hughes. “Like I've said, (Casey DeSmith's) been great for us and same with (Arturs Silovs), but having Demmer back there, it's a whole new thing.”

The Canucks got a goal and an assist from Tyler Myers, while Nils Hoglander, Dakota Joshua and J.T. Miller also scored.

Brayden Pachal replied for the Flames midway through the third period and Jacob Markstrom stopped 27 of 31 shots.

Flames coach Ryan Huska liked his team's effort, despite the result.

“Not the results but the effort was there for us for the full 60 minutes,” he said. “We made three mistakes on coming back in our own zone off the rush, we lost people, and then one turnover but other than those mistakes, I liked what we did tonight.”

Miller sent a blast past Markstrom 15:02 into the third to pad the score at 4-1 with his 37th goal of the season.

The marker extended Miller's point streak to 11 games, with four goals and 10 assists across the stretch.

Cheers of “J-T Mill-er!” rang throughout Rogers Arena after he scored.

Pachal beat Demko on Calgary's 33rd shot of the night, sending a puck sailing through traffic and into the top corner of the net. The goal - Pachal's second of the season and first with the Flames - cut Calgary's deficit to 3-1 at the 8:35 mark of the third period.

“Yeah, it definitely feels good,” he said of the tally. “Obviously, you wish it sparked a little bit of a come back but we fell a bit short. It still feels nice, but would have felt a lot sweeter with the win.”

Tempers flared midway through the second when Hoglander shoved Pachal in the chest and Pachal snapped his head back in response.

A scrum erupted in front of the benches, including a skirmish between Vancouver's Conor Garland - who stands five-foot-eight - and Calgary's Adam Klapka - who's listed at six-foot-eight - where Garland was nearly tossed into the Flames' bench.

Garland and Klapka were both tossed from the game for roughing, and Hoglander was sent to the box for cross-checking.

Demko made one of his best saves of the night on the ensuing penalty kill, robbing Nazem Kadri in tight, then dropping and rolling on to his back to smother the rebound.

“I felt pretty good. Definitely some stuff that I want to clean up,” Demko said of his performance Tuesday. “But I think the important thing is getting back, seeing some game action. And obviously, getting the win was great … and clinching the division was great.”

ODDS AND ENDS

Both Calgary and Vancouver went 0-for-2 on the power play. Flames defenceman Oliver Kylington played his 200th regular-season game. Canucks defenceman Nikita Zadorov turned 29 on Tuesday.

UP NEXT

Canucks: Wrap up the regular season Thursday by visiting the Winnipeg Jets.

Flames: Host the San Jose Sharks on Thursday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 16, 2024.

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