Yet, the biggest story of Vancouver's 5-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night may have been the three unheralded defensemen pressed into action because of injuries.
With defensemen Sami Salo, Willie Mitchell and Kevin Bieksa all hurt, the Canucks got key minutes out of Aaron Rome, Brad Lukowich and Nolan Baumgartner while slowing down the NHL's third highest scoring team.
Rome was a healthy scratch 22 times this season and spent two weeks in the AHL, Lukowich was in the minors until January, and Baumgartner played his first game in the NHL since the 2006-07 season. Combined, they were plus-6 against Chicago.
"They did a great job," Luongo said. "Obviously, we're missing some of our best D-men, and guys that are usually second or third pairing played lots of minutes. Guys like Baumer and Romer, those guys played awesome."
Vancouver was outshot 44-28, but kept most to the outside. The Canucks prevented many quality chances and odd-man rushes for the potent Blackhawks while Mikael Samuelsson, Henrik Sedin and Steve Bernier staked them to a 3-0 lead in the first period.
"It was a good, gutsy effort," said defenseman Shane O'Brien, a healthy scratch earlier this season who played 22 1/2 minutes Saturday. "They got quite a few shots, but I think we did a pretty good job of limiting it to the outside. We know that if Luongo sees it he's going to stop it."
Chicago captain Jonathan Toews scored 3:30 into the third period, but Henrik Sedin added his second goal 32 seconds later. He also set up twin brother Daniel on a 2-on-1 rush with 1:26 left to round out the scoring as Vancouver won its fourth straight to move into a tie with Colorado atop the Northwest Division.
"They're one of the best teams in the West, but we played a solid game," Henrik Sedin said. "A couple of our Ds were gone, but the guys that came in stepped up."
Daniel Sedin also had two assists, and Burrows had three to extend his point streak to 11 games (13 goals, 5 assists). Henrik Sedin also pushed his NHL-leading point total to 74, but Canucks coach Alain Vigneault was as impressed with when his top line scored as how much it did.
"That goal that made it 4-1, that was the pressure moment in the game," he said. "They'd just scored. They could be building momentum, and those guys go out right after and they just take it all away. That's when it's time to score and that's what they're doing for us right now."
Chicago backup Antti Niemi got consecutive starts ahead of No. 1 goalie Cristobal Huet for the first time all season, but didn't last long. Huet started the second period after Niemi gave up three goals on 12 shots.
"I wasn't blaming the goaltending at all," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "I'm trying to change momentum with a lot of hockey left and it didn't work."
Huet stopped 14 of 16 shots as Chicago lost in regulation for just the fourth time in 17 games and dropped to 3-2 on a season-high, eight-game road trip.
"We didn't have the energy. And our thought process, mentally, some of those mistakes we haven't seen those all year," Quenneville added.
Despite the depleted defense, Luongo only needed a handful of great saves. He got a glove on Patrick Kane's shot 19 seconds in, stopped backhanders by Ben Eager in close twice on the same play midway through the second, and made a fully extended glove save off Cam Barker's power-play drive early in the third.
"Roberto knew we were short on D personnel," Vigneault said. "I'm sure he knew that he needed his 'A' game tonight on the ice, and that's what we got."
NOTES: Salo (groin) and Mitchell (upper body) are day to day, but Bieksa (lacerated ankle tendon) is out indefinitely. ... Canucks C Pavol Demitra's assist on Bernier's goal was his first point in four games since missing nine months with a shoulder injury sustained against Chicago in the second round of last year's playoffs. ... Niemi, who beat the Canucks 1-0 win on Nov. 22, came in with a better goals-against (1.85 to 2.24) and save percentage (.923 to .904) than Huet. ... Vancouver C Rick Rypien missed a third game (flu).
|Mikael Samuelsson (17) ASST: Ryan Kesler (31)|
1 - 0 VAN
|Henrik Sedin (22) ASST: Daniel Sedin (31), Alexandre Burrows (19)|
2 - 0 VAN
|Steve Bernier (11) ASST: Pavol Demitra (1), Christian Ehrhoff (15)|
3 - 0 VAN
|Jonathan Toews (17) ASST: Niklas Hjalmarsson (8), Patrick Sharp (24)|
3 - 1 VAN
|Henrik Sedin (23) ASST: Daniel Sedin (32), Alexandre Burrows (20)|
4 - 1 VAN
|Daniel Sedin (14) ASST: Henrik Sedin (51), Alexandre Burrows (21)|
5 - 1 VAN
|Shane O'Brien Interference against Patrick Kane|
|Christian Ehrhoff Hooking against Patrick Kane|
|Andrew Ladd Fighting (maj) against Ryan Kesler|
|Ryan Kesler Fighting (maj) against Andrew Ladd|
|Dustin Byfuglien Too many men/ice - bench|
|Steve Bernier Roughing against Jonathan Toews|
|Jonathan Toews Slashing against Steve Bernier|
|Christian Ehrhoff Cross checking against Jonathan Toews|
|Mason Raymond Interference against Brent Sopel|
|Tomas Kopecky Holding against Mikael Samuelsson|
|Mikael Samuelsson Hi-sticking against Troy Brouwer|