Canucks conquer Minnesota Wild for sixth straight win
HOSEA CHEUNG, QMI Agency
|Vancouver Canucks' Mason Raymond (R) crashes into Minnesota Wild goalie Darcy Kuemper during the second period of their NHL hockey game in Vancouver, British Columbia February 12, 2013. REUTERS/Andy Clark
VANCOUVER — Henrik Sedin didn't get his record-tying point Tuesday. But the Vancouver Canucks still got the win — their sixth straight.
With the team captain on the verge of moving alongside Markus Naslund for the franchise all-time scoring lead, his teammates got the job done without needing the centre's offensive contribution. Instead, they relied on another case of solid goaltending, strong defending, and depth scoring to defeat the Minnesota Wild 2-1 at Rogers Arena.
"We're playing good hockey right now," said Kevin Bieksa, who scored the night's first goal. "We have the right mentality, we're staying in games and we're not having those lulls we were having earlier in the season. We had a lot better start tonight."
The Wild, who have not won in Vancouver since Jan. 31, 2009, now extend their losing streak in Canucks territory to 11 games. And the Canucks improve their record against Northwest Division opponents to 6-0-1.
Roberto Luongo made 25 saves for his fourth straight win, including having to stop a flurry of shots in the final minute of the third period.
"We want to be playing like this every night," Luongo said. "Some nights we're not going to score four or five goals, we're going to have to grind one out like tonight and as long as we play well within our system, we're going to give ourselves a chance to win."
At the other, the Canucks were facing a goaltender making his NHL debut.
With Josh Harding sidelined after feeling "off" due to his multiple sclerosis medication and Niklas Backstrom given a rest having played the night before, Darcy Kuemper played his first ever game for the Wild. The 22-year-old rookie, who was named the top WHL goaltender in 2010-11 with the Red Deer Rebels, made 28 saves in a losing effort.
Vancouver opened the scoring with Bieksa's third goal of the season. The defenceman one-timed a nice centring feed by Zack Kassian to also get his second tally in as many games. The hosts doubled their lead about midway through the middle frame, as Mason Raymond and Keith Ballard connected with Jannik Hansen in front of the net to give the Dane his third goal of the season.
The Wild answered soon after. With Max Lapierre in the box for roughing, Devin Setoguchi wired his second of the season by Luongo to pull the visitors back within one.
"It was a great play by him, he got it in tight … changed the angle and put it off the bar and in," Luongo said of the goal. "Sometimes you've got to give the guy credit on a good play. I thought I had him all the way but he made a perfect shot there."
But that was it for the Wild, despite a total of five power play opportunities.
The Canucks, who finished one-for-two with the man advantage, will get the day off Wednesday before hosting the Dallas Stars on Friday.