VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — The Vancouver Canucks are on such a roll, they can play poorly and still win.
On Monday night, the Canucks took two late penalties while trying to protect a one-goal lead, then killed them off and scored into the empty net for a 4-2 win over the Minnesota Wild that put Vancouver over 100 points this season.
“With the team and the guys and the depth we have, we aren’t always going to have to play at 100 percent, but at the same time that’s where we want to be,” captain Henrik Sedin said.
Raffi Torres, Daniel Sedin and Ryan Kesler scored in the first period and Vancouver hung on for its sixth straight win.
Kesler added his second goal into an empty net with 3.4 seconds left after the Wild failed to convert two power plays in the final 5 minutes with a chance to tie the game.
Roberto Luongo finished with 32 saves for the league-leading Canucks, who were back home after sweeping a five-game road trip, and became the first NHL team to pass the century mark this season with 101 points.
Minnesota captain Mikko Koivu returned to the lineup after missing 11 games with a broken finger to set up Andrew Brunette’s goal late in the second period, and scored one of his own 4:32 into the third period. They were Minnesota’s first goals in three games but came too late to prevent a third straight loss.
The Wild remained 11th in the Western Conference, four points out of the playoffs.
“You can’t look behind. You’ve got to look forward. We’re still right there,” Koivu said. “We had plenty of chances to score but just couldn’t put it in the net. Obviously, that’s what counts. Give them some credit, but you’ve got to believe that chances like that, sooner or later, will go in.”
It may be a costly win for the Canucks, who lost defenseman Sami Salo after he was hit by a slap shot from Kyle Brodziak late in the first period. The rising shot appeared to hit the veteran defenseman on the left arm, which was hanging down as he doubled over before heading straight to the medical room.
In addition to the return of Koivu, Minnesota’s top-line center and second-leading scorer, the Wild also got hard hitting 18-goal scorer Cal Clutterbuck back after he missed four games with a concussion. Defenseman Clayton Stoner also came back after missing three games with an abdominal injury.
None of it helped early.
Torres opened the scoring 1:59 in on a long, harmless looking shot from just over the blue line that somehow eluded Niklas Backstrom, who made 18 saves.
Stoner then took two straight penalties that the Canucks’ top-ranked power play converted. The first took only 6 seconds, with NHL scoring leader Daniel Sedin snapping a shot through Kesler’s screen for his 90th point of the season. It took 69 seconds for Kesler to score on Stoner’s second penalty, tapping his own rebound into an empty net after a pretty three-way passing play.
Meanwhile, Clutterbuck, who led the NHL with 298 hits coming in, ended up on the Canucks’ bench after missing with a big hit attempt late in the period.
Minnesota certainly had plenty of chances on the power play. After falling behind in the first period, the Wild got four straight advantages in the second, including 1:35 of 5-on-3 advantage. But they couldn’t beat Luongo, and failed again on two chances late, including one with 2:120 left and Backstrom on the bench for yet another extra attacker during the final 40 seconds.
Minnesota had a great chance to get back in the game on four straight power plays, including 1:35 of 5-on-3 midway through the second period. But Luongo made four great saves, robbing Brunette and Koivu on backdoor chances.
“You need something on a power play, Minnesota coach Todd Richards said. “The difference is they won the special teams game tonight, scoring two themselves and we didn’t get any.
Brunette, who only had one goal and two assists while Koivu was out, finally converted his own rebound on a pass out of the corner from Koivu after the power plays expired. He helped set up Koivu’s goal in a scramble early in the third.
“I was a little off timing-wise and, obviously, a little bit nervous after missing over three weeks, Koivu said “But I felt a little better towards the end. The first one is always the toughest.”
Notes: Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper watched the game alongside former Canucks player Trevor Linden in regular seats eight rows up at center ice, and more than once fans leaned over the country’s leader to ask Linden for an autograph or photo. … Vancouver honored former defenseman and current scout Harold Snepts with the fourth spot in its ring of honor during a pre-game ceremony. … Koivu, who leads the Wild with 566 won faceoffs, did not take draws. … Wild G Josh Harding, out since tearing his MCL and ACL in a preseason collision, is with the team and took shots down in the butterfly stance for the first time Monday.
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