VANCOUVER -- Vancouver Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller took his time before peeling off the tools of his trade, carefully writing "300th win" over blue tape along the edge of the game puck before removing his pads to talk to the waiting media at Rogers Arena.
Nothing was going to ruin Miller's milestone win Tuesday, not even a late goal by Jiri Tlusty that spoiled his shutout bid. After making 29 saves to become the 30th NHL goalie to reach 300 career wins with a 4-1 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes, Miller was happy to enjoy the moment and reflect on 12 seasons in the NHL.
"It means I have been playing a while," the 34-year-old goaltender said. "It feels good. It's a collection of a lot of good teams and a lot of good players over the years. I will take a little moment to reflect. It’s been a lot of fun. Winning is fun. I've got to do it quite a bit with some good guys. I will try to enjoy it. This win with this group feels good."
Miller has been pretty good himself so far in Vancouver.
Tlusty ended his bid for a 31st career shutout during a scramble with 8:55 left in the third period, but Miller still improved to 6-1-0 in his first season as the Canucks No.1 goaltender. He wasn't overly busy but made his best save four minutes into the third period, sliding left to right to rob Tlusty on a backdoor tap-in off the rush.
"He's an unbelievable leader," said Brad Richardson, who scored twice. "It's too bad we couldn't get him the shutout."
Miller was happy to settle for goal support from Richardson and the rest of the bottom-six forwards.
After relying heavily on its top two lines early this season, Vancouver got two goals Richardson and the third line, one from the fourth line, and a power-play goal from fourth-line center Linden Vey to beat the Hurricanes.
Richardson opened the scoring from in tight on a rush 1:32 into the game and rounded out the scoring into an empty net with 16.4 seconds left.
Vey doubled the lead on a power play 50 seconds into the second period, and fellow fourth-line forward Jannik Hansen made it 3-0 on a deflection with 1:21 left in the second. Canucks coach Willie Desjardins' insistence on always rolling four lines paid off.
"He is rolling four lines so we have to show up with something or they are not going to roll four lines," Richardson said. "I thought that was probably our best game as a line. It has to come every night. We can't have (Henrik Sedin) and (Daniel Sedin) and (Radim Vrbata) getting the goals every night. We have to chip in."
Carolina received an immediate contribution from captain Eric Staal, who had an assist in his return after missing five games because of an upper-body injury. But it wasn't enough to prevent the Hurricanes from remaining winless this season (0-6-2), their worst start ever.
"I felt good, I felt like my pace was there and created some offense and some good looks," Staal said. "Miller was pretty good on a few on me. Got one on him there. It was a late, but individually I felt strong."
It wasn't a sentiment shared by many in the Carolina room.
Cam Ward made 21 saves for the Hurricanes, who had been in Vancouver since late Friday and wrapped up a five-game road trip. Carolina hasn't won in Vancouver since Oct. 15, 1999, but players are far more concerned about their current funk.
"We just have to find a way, that's it," Staal said. "You can say you are trying but it's the NHL, it's not going to be easy. You need to execute, you need to be better and we weren't sharp enough with the puck and strong enough in our end. We didn't deserve to win."
The problems started early for the Hurricanes.
Richardson opened the scoring early for the third time in four games when Zack Kassian sent him alone in tight behind the Carolina defense and he lifted a quick shot over Ward's shoulder.
"We were with him throughout the neutral zone, took a breath, let him go and next thing you know he's all alone," Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said.
Carolina generated a couple chances off the rush but little sustained pressure before Vey, a rookie, took advantage of his role in the high slot on the top power-play unit to score his third goal of the season early in the second period. Vrbata's one-touch centering pass hopped over Daniel Sedin's stick in front and straight to a streaking Vey, who quickly fired past Ward while he was still stuck on his right post.
The Hurricanes had a great chance to get back into the game late in the period when a deflected puck bounced to Jeff Skinner inside their blue line for what was shaping up as a breakaway. But it bounced over Skinner's stick to Canucks defenseman Yannick Weber, who fired it on net for Hansen to deflect past a screened Ward.
"Could have gone either way," Desjardins said. "They had a chance, we kept it in and ended up scoring. That was probably the difference."
Miller, who made a good left pad save on Staal early in the second period, had his bid for a 31st career shutout snapped after a good shift by Staal, Skinner and Tlusty after first-year coach Bill Peters shook up his top line, dropping Alexander Semin for Skinner.
Semin, who is pointless in six games, didn't play again after taking an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty four minutes into the third period.
"He'd played enough," Peters said. "I don't think we need to take undisciplined penalties when we are trying to dig out of a hole, right? You're in a hole. Quit digging."
Carolina has already dug a big enough hole this season.
"We started missing routine plays," Skinner said. "Maybe it's confidence, I don't know. It's tough to put a finger on it."
Peters hopes a return home will help, but knows it won't be enough. The Hurricanes host the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday.
"We need to reset for sure," he said, "But we have to be honest about our commitment and focus and willingness to do what it takes to win."