VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) Elias Pettersson had two goals and an assist as the Vancouver Canucks moved atop the Western Conference standings with a 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night.

Conor Garland scored and Quinn Hughes and J.T. Miller each had a pair of assists for the Canucks who lead the West at 43-18-8, one point ahead of the Winnipeg Jets and Colorado Avalanche.

Vancouver goalie Casey DeSmith made 15 saves in his first victory since starter Thatcher Demko was sidelined by injury last week.

The Canucks have talked a lot recently about standing strong in the face of adversity.

“That’s all we’ve really talked about lately, that we’ve got to be the team that doesn’t go away,” Miller said. “We’ve got to be able to man up and respond. Things aren’t gonna go our way down the stretch here every day. We’ve got to understand that it’s gonna take a mentally tough group to win hockey games in the latter part of the season.”

Rasmus Dahlin scored twice for the Sabres, who were coming off a 6-2 win over the Kraken in Seattle on Monday. Buffalo fell five points behind the Detroit Red Wings, who hold the second wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference.

“We gave it our all. It’s a good team over there, (we’re on) back-to-backs, we played our (butts) off,” Dahlin said. “We should have scored when we had a chance on the power play. We had a ton of chances. It’s the little thing right now, so we got to be better.”

Devon Levi made his first NHL start since Jan. 24 and stopped 31 of 33 shots. He was recalled from the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League on Saturday. He said there was some pressure in taking the net when his team was fighting for a playoff spot.

“You can feel it a bit but that’s what makes it fun. That’s what makes this game meaningful,” Levi said. “Coming in, you know it’s a big game and the boys are relying on you and there’s no better feeling than having that on your back and being able to give everything you’ve got for the team in a special moment.”

Canucks coach Rick Tocchet liked the way his team refused to relent after Buffalo got on the board.

“I thought we protected the guts,” the coach said. “That’s a good hockey team over there, a lot of talent. And I thought we managed the defensive part of the game really well.”

Buffalo make a late push in the game, with Dahlin scoring his second of the night from the point with 20.7 seconds left.

The Sabres pulled Levi with 2:30 left, but couldn’t beat DeSmith to force overtime.

Instead, Pettersson collected the puck from Miller in Vancouver territory and sprinted up the ice, putting an easy shot into the empty net.

Dahlin cut the deficit to 2-1 during a stretch of 4-on-4 play after Vancouver’s Tyler Myers and Buffalo’s Jeff Skinner were sent to the penalty box for slashing midway through the third period.

Dahlin wove his way past a pair of Canucks and fired a backhanded shot past DeSmith for his 16th goal of the season at the 9:53 mark.

The Canucks went up 2-0 with a power-play goal midway through the second after Owen Power was called for hooking.

Levi stopped a blast from Miller and the rebound bounced out to Pettersson in front of the net. He sent a backhanded shot over the Buffalo netminder at 13:48. The goal was Pettersson’s 32nd of the season, but just his fourth since the All-Star break.

The Canucks were 1 for 4 with the man advantage, while the Sabres failed to score on four power plays.

Vancouver opened the scoring 4:06 into the game with a goal that needed a second look. Hughes fired a shot on net and while Levi was able to get a piece of it, the puck got stuck between his skate and the post. Garland poked it in for his 14th tally of the season.

Buffalo challenged for goaltender interference, but a review determined the goal would stand and the Canucks officially took a 1-0 lead.


Sabres: At Edmonton on Thursday night in the fourth of a five-game road trip.

Canucks: Host Montreal on Tuesday night in the fifth of a nine-game homestand.



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