VANCOUVER — Thomas Vanek thought it was going to be "one of those nights" after Chicago Blackhawks backup goalie Anton Forsberg robbed him twice on point-blank opportunities in Thursday's first period.
Turns out the Vancouver Canucks winger was correct — just not the way he envisioned.
Vanek had two goals and three assists, rookie phenom Brock Boeser added a goal and three assists, and Vancouver snapped a four-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over Chicago.
Sam Gagner chipped in with two goals and an assist of his own to round out the line's 12-point performance that featured a number of jaw-dropping passes as the Canucks (16-17-5) registered just their second victory in the last 10 games (2-7-1). Jacob Markstrom made 30 saves to get the win.
"We played well as a team overall, and our line ... we created a lot of chances," said Vanek, who recorded the third five-point night of his career. "Tonight was just one of those games where all three of us clicked."
They didn't right away, though, as Forsberg stoned Vanek with a highlight-reel stick save early in the first period before thwarting him again on a power play after a nice give-and-go with Canucks defenceman Derek Pouilot.
"I thought early on it was going to be one of those nights where it goes the other way," said Vanek. "He made some great saves. As a line, we stuck with it."
That line was put together three games ago, and started to find its footing in Vancouver's 3-1 home loss to the St. Louis Blues before the Christmas break.
With the Canucks hurting up front minus Bo Horvat (foot) and Sven Baertschi (jaw), the contributions of Gagner and Vanek — both signed as free agents in the summer — and Boeser, who was no lock to make the team out of training camp, are a big plus.
"I've played with Vanny a lot this year," said Gagner. "When you add (Boeser) into the mix, he finds so much open ice, he creates so many chances.
"Hopefully we can build off of that one."
Nick Schmaltz and Ryan Hartman replied for Chicago (17-14-5), which has lost three in a row after winning five straight. Forsberg made 26 saves in taking the loss in place of injured starter Corey Crawford.
Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville credited Vanek, Boeser and Gagner, but was also critical of his team's defensive structure.
"All three of them have a lot of skill and they have good patience," said Quenneville. "It was a bang-bang play on all of (the goals).
"Pucks going through us down low like Swiss cheese ... it was too easy."
The Canucks snapped a 1-1 tie with seven minutes left in the second period when Boeser played the puck behind the net to Gagner, who found Vanek in front with a no-look feed that he buried for his 11th of the season.
Boeser, who now has 16 points in his last 13 games, came close to adding to his team-high 20 goals earlier in the period, but his shot from inside Forsberg's crease somehow hit the post and stayed out.
John Hayden and Patrick Kane both found iron at the other end for Chicago later in the period, but Vancouver led 2-1 after 40 minutes.
Gagner gave the Canucks a two-goal cushion 1:27 into the third off a pass from Vanek for his sixth of the year and second of the night past Forsberg, who got the start after the Blackhawks announced Wednesday that Crawford will miss at least a week with an upper-body injury.
Vanek got his second of the evening with 3:31 left when Boeser, who retook the NHL rookie scoring lead with his four points, fed a behind-the-back pass in front to set up his linemate's 12th.
"It's been a blast," Boeser said of playing with Gagner and Vanek. "Just based off of last game, I thought our chemistry was building."
Boeser said after the loss to St. Louis that he needs to compliment his lethal shot — something he showed Thursday.
"I want to make some more plays like (Vanek)," the 20-year-old, who has 38 points in 35 games, said with a smile while standing a few feet from his linemate. "I was focused on that a little and it seemed to work out.
"There was some luck there, but it was a good building block for our team."
Vanek then played set-up man with 1:25 remaining on a slick back pass to Boeser for his 21st before Hartman scored a consolation goal, his sixth, with 8.6 seconds left.
The Canucks grabbed a 1-0 lead at 7:03 of the opening period moments after their first power play when Gagner tipped a Nikolay Goldobin shot past Forsberg.
The Blackhawks' 29th-ranked power play replied when Schmaltz ripped his seventh over Markstrom's shoulder before Vanek, Boeser and Gagner eventually took over the game.
"It's one win for us, which is important, and one big night for our line," said Vanek. "But we need to win a lot more games.
"Hopefully we can keep our momentum going here."
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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press