Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko (35) looks on as Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Zach Hyman (11) fights for control of the puck with Canucks defenceman Tyler Myers (57) during second period NHL action in Vancouver, Thursday, March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko (35) looks on as Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Zach Hyman (11) fights for control of the puck with Canucks defenceman Tyler Myers (57) during second period NHL action in Vancouver, Thursday, March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Virtanen scores 2, Canucks pick up much-needed 3-1 win over Toronto

Maple Leafs were coming off a three-game sweep over Edmonton

Jake Virtanen scored twice, propelling the Vancouver Canucks to a much-needed 3-1 win over the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs Thursday.

Bo Horvat also scored for Vancouver (10-15-2), burying a snap shot midway through the third period to give his side some breathing room.

Pierre Engvall had the lone goal for the Leafs (18-5-2) with Ilya Mikheyev notching an assist.

Thatcher Demko stood tall in the Canucks net, stopping 32 shots. The Leafs got 24 saves from Michael Hutchinson.

Toronto was coming off a three-game sweep of the Oilers, including a 6-1 win in Edmonton on Wednesday. Thursday’s result snapped a four-game win streak that saw the Leafs outscore their opposition 15-2.

The Canucks were playing without star centre Elias Pettersson, who left morning skate with an upper-body injury Thursday and is considered day-to-day.

Auston Matthews nearly clawed out a second goal for the Leafs with less than two minutes left on the clock, but Demko stretched out across the net for an eye-popping last-second save.

While the Canucks have struggled with holding leads this season, they appeared determined Thursday to not let another game slip away.

The squad started the third period with aggression, controlling the puck and peppering Hutchinson with shots.

Horvat got one past the Toronto netminder 7:56 into the frame, collecting a crisp pass from defenceman Alex Edler and instantly launching a blast from the top hash marks.

Horvat’s 10th goal of the season put Vancouver up 3-1.

Midway through the second, Toronto’s Justin Holl was called for tripping, leading to a big power play for the Canucks.

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Despite the man advantage, Demko was forced to make his most impressive save of the night when Alexander Kerfoot and Mikheyev got a short-handed 2-on-1.

Kerfoot sliced a last-second pass to Mikheyev in front of the net and Demko deftly slid across the crease, stacking his pads to make the stop.

At the other end of the ice, Virtanen took a sharp-angle shot that snuck into the space between Hutchinson’s left shoulder and the crossbar to put Vancouver up 2-1.

It was the 24-year-old winger’s second goal of the night and his third of the season.

He opened the scoring 2:59 into Thursday’s game.

Virtanen muscled his way into Toronto’s zone with speed and chipped a backhanded shot on net. Hutchinson seemed to get a piece of the puck before it popped up and over the goal line to give the Canucks the early lead.

Engvall responded for the Leafs 17:15 into the period, sending a wrist shot from low in the slot over Demko’s shoulder to knot the score at 1-1 heading into intermission.

The Leafs and Canucks will battle again Saturday in Vancouver.

NOTES: Canucks defenceman Quinn Hughes played his 100th NHL game. He has 79 points (10 goals, 69 assists) across his career. … Marc Michaelis played his first NHL game. The 25-year-old left-winger signed with Vancouver as a free agent in March 2020 after playing four years at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

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