By The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — A change of mindset is helping Brock Boeser rediscover his game this year.
The Canucks right-winger scored twice Saturday, lifting Vancouver to a 4-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets.
With eight goals on the season, Boeser also passed Edmonton’s Connor McDavid for most goals in the league.
“I think my shot’s feeling really good, obviously,” Boeser said after Saturday’s win. “Obviously, there’s been issues with injuries in the past. But I’ve been feeling really good and I’ve been really focusing on staying healthy and feeling good on the ice and I think it’s showing.”
The hot start comes after a 2019-20 campaign where the 23-year-old from Burnsville, Minn., struggled to find the back of the net, registering 16 goals and 29 assists in 57 regular-season games.
“I think I was in my head the most I’ve ever been in my head in my hockey career,” Boeser said. “This year is a fresh start and I just felt like I needed to get back to my game, just not overthinking things, just playing off instinct.”
His first goal on Saturday came just 29 seconds into the game.
Defenceman Alex Edler fed him a pass from near the goal line and Boeser put a backhand shot in behind Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck after the goalie came up to the top of his crease to stop the shot.
The tally gave Vancouver a “huge confidence boost,” said teammate Zack MacEwen.
“You don’t want to take that for granted and kind of let off the gas at the start of the game,” said MacEwen, who scored his first goal of the year in the win. “I think that’s just a good way for us to get rolling right out of the gate and build off that and just keep it going from there.”
Canucks rookie Nils Hoglander had the game winner before the end of the end of the first frame, tapping in a puck that had bounced off the top of Winnipeg’s net.
Boeser rounded out the scoring with an empty-net strike with 2:01 left on the game clock.
Saturday marked the first time the Canucks (6-5-0) beat the Jets since December 2016. Winnipeg had 10 consecutive wins across the stretch.
Canucks coach Travis Green said his squad wasn’t thinking about bumping the slump heading into the matchup.
“We’re a team that’s good enough that we can beat another good team. Tonight all we wanted to worry about was our game,” he said. “It was definitely nice to come in here and get a win.”
Vancouver controlled the play through much of the game, outshooting Winnipeg 16-6 in the third period alone.
“That’s the NHL for you. Any team can win any night,” said Hellebuyck, who stopped 35-of-38 shots for the Jets. “Vancouver, they earned this one. We’ve got to move on and we’ve got to keep racking up as many wins as possible because this division’s going to get tight.”
The team that worked the hardest won on Saturday, said Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice.
“We got beat is the cleanest way to put it,” he said. “After the first period, they were faster and they were harder and heavier on us. We didn’t move the puck well at all.
“But that’s not the story of the game. We had opportunities to win things and get it moving and we just didn’t.”
Mason Appleton scored Winnipeg’s (5-3-0) lone tally early in the first frame and Adam Lowry registered the assist.
Thatcher Demko made 23 saves to extend Vancouver’s win streak to four games.
The group has started to create some chemistry in recent games, the Canucks netminder said.
“And that’s a big thing — when guys are on the same page, everything starts moving a little smoother and you start building confidence that way because you can trust the guy beside you a little more,” Demko said.
Saturday was the first stop in a six-game road trip for the Canucks. They’ll be in Montreal Monday for back-to-back games against the Canadiens, then head to Toronto to battle the Leafs.
A decisive win over the Jets could be a boon for Vancouver heading into the stretch, Green said.
“We want them to be confident, we want them to be excited to play. And when you win, that’s the best way of gaining confidence,” the coach said.
Green cautioned, though, that teams need to have short memories — win or lose.
“We can enjoy this for tonight. Talk about it, be happy about it. But come tomorrow, we’ve got to get ready for the next game.”
The Jets will host the Flames on Monday.
NOTES: Winnipeg’s three top scorers all saw their five-game point streaks snapped. Nikolaj Ehlers had 10 points (five goals, five assists) across the stretch, while Mark Scheifele (two goals, seven assists) and Andrew Copp (four goals, five assists) each registered nine. … Jets bench boss Paul Maurice coached his 1,608th game, surpassing Al Arbour for the fourth most in NHL history. Maurice also turned 54 on Saturday.