Before each game, Brock Boeser writes a message on his hockey stick.

It starts with a date, "8.6.14."

Below that, it's the initials "TA."

Below that, it's the number, "6."

He's been doing it for the last six years, including the two he spent in Grand Forks at UND.

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It's a tribute to one of Boeser's best friends, Ty Alyea, who died in a car accident on Aug. 6, 2014. Alyea, a hockey and baseball teammate of Boeser's, wore No. 6.

"You know, it's obviously a tough day for my friends and I," Boeser said Thursday, the six-year anniversary.

That was on Boeser's mind as he took the ice for a Stanley Cup Playoff game between his Vancouver Canucks and the Minnesota Wild.

It was on his mind as he hunted down a rebound of a shot in the second period, outmaneuvered Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon to get position, made an all-out dive to reach it, then shoveled it in the net to break a 0-0 tie, a goal that would stand as the game-winner.

It was on his mind as he got back to the bench, sat down, pointed toward the sky, then buried his head in the dasher boards.

"To be able to get one for him, it's something special," Boeser said. "It's an emotional day for sure. I tried to make the most of it today out on the ice."

Boeser said it was the first time he remembers playing a hockey game on Aug. 6.

"Obviously it's weird and different that we have a hockey game in August," Boeser said. "I know my friends are all hanging out today and being with each other."

Boeser, meanwhile, was in Edmonton with his teammates, putting together a memorable performance.

He wasn't done after his goal. He later added an assist as the Canucks beat the Wild 3-0 to take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five series. Vancouver will have a shot to close it out at 9:45 p.m. Friday night.

Boeser has scored in back-to-back games to put Vancouver in the driver's seat in the series. His three points in three playoff games ranks second on the Canucks.

A new assignment

Thursday's goal came on the power play, where Boeser is playing a new spot. Instead of sitting in the circles, where he has a chance to fire away with his wrist shot -- arguably his biggest strength -- he played on top of the crease, screening the goalie and distributing the puck.

"It's just picking up trash," Boeser said with a smile.

Boeser took the spot that normally belongs to Tyler Toffoli, who has missed the past two games with an injury he sustained in Game 1.

"Our power play has been successful with this look," Boeser said. "Obviously, whatever I can do to help. . . obviously Toff (Tyler Toffoli) didn't play, so I go to that spot.

"We shot the puck a lot, so there's going to be rebounds and stuff, so I was just really trying to focus on being net front and making sure (Wild goalie) Alex Stalock couldn't see the puck."

Canucks coach Travis Green said he's impressed with the development of Boeser's game. Boeser is in his third full year as a pro and is playing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time.

"I think we've all seen Brock over the years here, his first few years in the league, the things he can do with the puck, his shot, goal scoring," Green said. "But what I love right now is he's really bought into the other parts of the game. . . puck recoveries on the power play, wall battles in your own zone, forechecking, trying to turn over the puck and getting to the net.

"If you want to score at this time of year, you can't just wait for a shot. Sometimes, you've just got to get your nose dirty and find a way to score. He did that tonight."

Getting the best of the Wild

Boeser also continues reminding his hometown team what they could have had in the 2015 NHL Draft.

The Wild passed on Boeser to take Joel Eriksson-Ek with the No. 20 overall pick. Boeser went three picks later to the Canucks.

In March 2017, Boeser made his NHL debut against the Wild in St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center. He scored a goal that night and was named the first star of the game.

Boeser's regular-season numbers (75 goals, 161 points in 197 games) have far outpaced Eriksson-Ek's (24 goals, 66 points, 210 games). And in this series, Boeser has two goals and three points, while Eriksson-Ek has been held off the scoresheet. The Wild have yet to score a five-on-five goal in the series.

Boeser, fellow former UND player Troy Stecher and the Vancouver Canucks will try to finish off the first round series in Game 4 on Friday night.

"He's evolving as a player," Green said of Boeser. "He's finding a different spot on the power play than he normally does. I think because of him maturing as a player, he's able to stand in there and stand in front of the net. You know, that sounds easier than it is, to go stand in front of the net when someone's taking a slap shot.

"We want (players) there who can tip pucks, find rebounds and you've got to have a little bit of grit in your game if you want to do it. That's part of the evolution we're talking about with Brock."

Elsewhere around the league

  • Derek Forbort and the Calgary Flames eliminated Tucker Poolman and the Winnipeg Jets with a 4-0 victory Thursday. The Flames won the series 3-1. Poolman, who suffered an injury after he was hit by a puck in the face during Wednesday's Game 3, played 16:38 on Thursday and had three blocked shots. Forbort, who also got hit in the face by a puck Wednesday, played 19:45 and was a plus-two.
  • Dave Hakstol's Toronto Maple Leafs lost 4-3 in overtime to the Columbus Blue Jackets to fall behind in their best-of-five series 2-1. The Maple Leafs led 3-0 in the game.
  • T.J. Oshie and the Washington Capitals lost 3-1 to the Philadelphia Flyers in their round-robin game. Oshie didn't tally any points.

Friday's games

11 a.m. -- New York Islanders (Brock Nelson) vs. Florida Panthers, NBC Sports (Islanders lead series 2-1).

1:30 p.m. -- Arizona Coyotes (Nick Schmaltz) vs. Nashville Predators (Rocco Grimaldi), NHL Network (Coyotes lead series 2-1).

3 p.m. -- Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Montreal Canadiens, NBC Sports (Canadiens lead series 2-1).

5:45 p.m. -- Chicago Blackhawks (Jonathan Toews, Drake Caggiula) vs. Edmonton Oilers (Dave Tippett), NBC Sports (Blackhawks lead series 2-1).

7 p.m. -- Toronto Maple Leafs (Dave Hakstol) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, NHL Network (Blue Jackets lead series 2-1).

9:45 p.m. -- Vancouver Canucks (Brock Boeser, Troy Stecher) vs. Minnesota Wild (Zach Parise, Luke Johnson), NBC Sports (Canucks lead series 2-1).