Andrei Kuzmenko got an early gift for the holidays after being restored to the Vancouver Canucks' top line and thanked his coaches by scoring two goals in a 7-4 win over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night.

Nils Aman, Sam Lafferty, Dakota Joshua, Pius Suter and Quinn Hughes each added a goal to secure the victory and stave off San Jose's comeback bid. Thatcher Demko stopped 21 of 25 shots for Vancouver.

The Canucks head into the NHL's Christmas break leading the Western Conference with 49 points, two more than the Vegas Golden Knights, and three more than the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche. The Canucks are also two points ahead of the New York Rangers for most points in the entire league, but have played three more games than the Rangers.

Kuzmenko scored both of his goals in the first period, the first coming less than two minutes into the game and the second roughly five minutes later.

“For me, it’s a very important moment for the team to win,” said Kuzmenko. “I understand I need to score more and get goals more.”

His first came after seizing a puck redirected by the skates of San Jose’s Mikael Granlund and firing home a wrist shot. His second came when he tipped a long shot from J.T. Miller on the power play to make it 2-0.

The Sharks responded quickly, with Anthony Duclair getting San Jose’s opener, firing through Granlund’s legs on Thatcher Demko’s blocker side. Tomas Hertl made it 2-2 three minutes later after Demko kicked out a long shot.

After Aman and Lafferty restored Vancouver's two-goal lead in the second, Fabian Zetterlund added a third for San Jose at 11:08 of the period finding open space in front of Demko to finish the chance. Joshua scored Vancouver’s fifth in the final minute of the second period for a 5-3 lead after two.

Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet acknowledged the fatigue creeping into his team leading into the Christmas break.

“We hung in there. There were some moments there we didn’t like,” he said. “It’s nice (to win). We definitely need a break, guys need to get away from the rink for three days.”

Vancouver's Ian Cole said he thought his team showed maturity to stave off the comeback bids from the Sharks.

“I thought it was good. They’ve been playing well, they can score goals. They came back, we responded well,” Cole said. “We showed a mature game that we could have let get away from us and we didn’t.”

Jacob MacDonald added a fourth goal for the Sharks at 13:16 of the third period.

Quinn Hughes finished the scoring with an empty-net goal for Vancouver at 19:47.

Mackenzie Blackwood saved 19 of 25 shots for San Jose and Mario Ferraro had three assists in a game for the first time in his NHL career.


Canucks: Host the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday.

Sharks: Visit the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday.



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