VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Roberto Luongo took a big step toward getting back on track.
After a subpar start to the season in which he was struggled and had injuries, Luongo made 33 saves to earn his first shutout of the season, helping the Vancouver Canucks beat the Minnesota Wild 4-0 Monday night.
“It takes every guy in this locker room to get a shutout, and the boys worked hard tonight to preserve it and make sure we didn’t give up much — especially in the third period there,” Luongo said.
Henrik Sedin scored a goal and added two assists to extend his points streak to three games and twin brother Daniel added three assists to help the Canucks win for the 11th time in 14 games.
At 20-9-5, the Wild are off to their best start in franchise history, even after their fourth straight loss.
It’s not about the standings,” Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom said. “It’s the way we’re playing right now and that’s not our hockey.”
In their first home contest after a four-game road trip in the Eastern time zone, the Canucks moved within three points of the Northwest Division-leading Wild.
“We knew it was a huge game coming off the road trip, and we wanted to catch those guys,” Luongo said. “So it was a great team effort, and the shutout’s just a little bonus.”
Luongo also shared in a shutout Dec. 9 against Colorado, when he left early with a throat injury. Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen also scored for the Canucks.
“Obviously, we came out and execution wise we might have been a little bit off,” Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. “But that’s why you’ve got a great goaltender. He kept us in and (enabled) us to find our legs and find our hands.”
Despite missing five key forwards to injury, the Wild controlled most of the play in the first period while outshooting the Canucks 13-9. But Vancouver held a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes and then built its lead to 3-0 after the second.
Luongo was tested early as a Dany Heatley’s slid just wide of the post 10:30 into the game and Pierre-Marc Bouchard’s slap shot required a difficult save.
Henrik Sedin opened the scoring on a power play at 18:52 of the first as he fired off a cross-ice pass from Daniel.
“He made three unbelievable passes,” Henrik Sedin said. “That’s what I’ve said all along. He’s as good of a passer as anyone else in this league. … It was just a matter of getting open.”
Minnesota goaltender Niklas Backstrom got a puck of the puck, but it trickled through his legs. The goal came exactly a minute after Wild winger Colton Gillies was penalized for hooking.
The goal came after Vancouver defenseman Alex Edler made a great play at the other end of the ice, racing back to check Matt Cullen as he rushed alone toward the Vancouver net with the puck.
Kesler put the Canucks ahead 2-0 on another power play midway through the second period. He fired in Daniel Sedin’s pass from behind the net as the Swede waited patiently before sneaking a puck through a defender to Kesler on the edge of the crease.
Minnesota’s Heatley was off for high-sticking after he swatted at a Bouchard point shot that Luongo had caught during a Wild power play and then clipped Burrows in the face.
Burrows gave the Canucks a 3-0 advantage with just over two minutes left in the second. He put in Daniel Sedin’s pass from the side of the net, culminating a three-way passing play with the twins.
Luongo preserved his shutout with just under four minutes left in the game as he stopped a Colton Gillies backhand following a giveaway deep in the Vancouver end. Moments later, Hansen closed out the scoring.
The Wild lost its ninth straight in Vancouver since last winning Jan. 31, 2009. Minnesota has gone 0-7-2 at Rogers Arena since then.
“I really liked the start to the game,” Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said. “We were going really good doing a lot of good things and the next thing you know we took a penalty and of course they have some skill. They can capitalize when you make mistakes. We made a few of them tonight and they seemed to capitalize on every one of them.”
NOTES: Canucks winger Mason Raymond left the game midway through the third period after he took teammate Kevin Bieksa’s clearing attempt in the face … Bouchard returned to the Minnesota lineup after missing two games with a broken nose. … Canucks D Aaron Rome is out three-to-four weeks with a broken thumb suffered Saturday while blocking a shot in Toronto. D Keith Ballard sat out with back spasms stemming from a flare-up of an injury that forced him to miss the last five minutes of Saturday’s game. He took part in the morning skate but the back did not loosen up sufficiently, associate coach Rick Bowness said. … RW Jed Ortmeyer played for Minnesota a day after being called up from Houston of the AHL.
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