VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Canucks returned from an 18-day pause due to a COVID-19 outbreak and defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 in overtime at Rogers Arena on Sunday.
Bo Horvat won it at 1:19 with his second goal, capping Vancouver’s rally from down two goals in its first game since March 24.
“I couldn’t prouder of our guys in that room,” said Horvat, who also had an assist. “The way they manned up tonight and stuck with the process and willed their way to that win.”
The Canucks had 22 players and four staff members, including coach Travis Green, test positive for the coronavirus.
“This isn’t just your regular win during the regular season. It’s a special win,” Green said. “We’ve gone through a lot here with our group over the last few weeks. I’m proud of our group and how we stuck with it and won.”
With goalie Thatcher Demko among five players out while continuing to recover, Braden Holtby got his second start in 12 games dating to March 2 and made 37 saves for the Canucks (17-18-3), who were coming off a six-day break when positive COVID-19 tests forced the postponement of their March 31 game and eight more after that.
Holtby made a poke-check and barrel-roll save against Wayne Simmonds at 10:55 of the third period, and Nils Hoglander tied it 2-2 at 12:03 on a backdoor pass from defenseman Jalen Chatfield. It was Chatfield’s first NHL point in his 11th game.
“Just a gutsy effort,” Holby said. “You give it absolutely all you have, stick together, and we believed we were going to have a chance to win.”
Auston Matthews and William Nylander each scored in his return to the lineup, and Jack Campbell made 21 saves for the Maple Leafs (28-12-5), who have lost four in a row (0-2-2) after going 9-0-1 in the previous 10.
“We had plenty of chances, enough to obviously win the game and add to our lead, but you’ve got to tip your hat to the goalie,” Matthews said. “Holtby played unreal tonight. He made some unbelievable saves.”
Toronto is in first place in the seven-team Scotia North Division, four points ahead of the Winnipeg Jets. Vancouver is sixth, 10 points behind the fourth-place Montreal Canadiens with four games in hand. The top four teams will qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The teams will play again here Tuesday.
Nylander returned after missing five games in NHL COVID-19 protocol and scored at 3:45 of the first period to put Toronto ahead 1-0.
John Tavares passed ahead to Nylander after a Vancouver turnover in the neutral zone, and his wrist shot from the left face-off circle went over Holtby’s glove for his 100th NHL goal.
“I think I had a little stretch before I went into quarantine where I could have scored that 100th goal, so it’s nice to get that one early,” Nylander said.
The Maple Leafs lost forward Zach Hyman at 10:16 of the second period after a knee-on-knee hit by defenseman Alexander Edler, who was given a major penalty for kneeing and a game misconduct. Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe did not have an update on Hyman.
“He’s such an integral part of our group. The elements he brings to our team, you can’t replace that,” Tavares said. “He plays such a key role for us. I know he was really positive in the room, optimistic, so hopefully nothing too serious.”
Matthews, back after missing a 5-2 loss to Winnipeg on Thursday because a wrist injury flared up, scored his NHL-leading 33rd goal off the rush with 19 seconds left in the major penalty to make it 2-0 at 14:57.
Matthews, who hit the crossbar and left post with a shot with 20 seconds left in the third period, has scored nine goals in his past seven games.
“Just kind of let the inflammation and everything settle down and it’s feeling much better now, and I felt pretty good tonight,” Matthews said.
Horvat scored on breakaway at 16:23 to make it 2-1.
Defenseman Nate Schmidt and forward Jake Virtanen came off the NHL COVID-19 protocol list Sunday as the last two Vancouver players on it, but neither played against Toronto. Forward Tyler Motte and defenseman Olli Juolevi also were out.
NOTES: Tavares has two goals and six assists during a five-game point streak. The assist on Nylander’s goal was his 100th with the Maple Leafs. … Canucks forward Tanner Pearson was plus-3 in 16:51 in his first game since spraining his ankle March 17 against the Ottawa Senators. … Demko, Motte and Juolevi each might return Tuesday against Toronto.