The Canucks open a road trip on Saturday with a visit to Boston -- their first meeting with the Bruins since losing Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final last spring. They tuned up for the rematch by shutting down the Minnesota Wild 3-0 Wednesday night to move atop the overall standings.
Roberto Luongo stopped all 28 shots he faced for his third straight shutout against the Wild and the fifth of his career against Minnesota.
In Vancouver's last visit to Boston, the Bruins routed Luongo and the Canucks 5-2 in Game 6 of the Final before beating them 4-0 in Game 7. Canucks coach Alain Vigneault lauded Luongo's play against the Wild -- but wouldn't say if he'd get the chance to play against the Bruins on Saturday.
"We got off to a two-goal lead, and that was all we needed because our goaltender was on top of his game," said Vigneault, who said he wouldn't announce his starter until Friday at the earliest.
Luongo wasn't talking about the rematch either.
"We're going to enjoy this win and focus on Boston tomorrow," he said when asked about playing against the Bruins on Saturday afternoon.
No matter who plays goal in Boston, he'd be happy to get the same kind of early support Luongo received on Wednesday. Vancouver jumped on the Wild early, with Daniel Sedin scoring a goal and setting up one by Alexandre Burrows to give Luongo a 2-0 lead barely halfway through the first period. Manny Malhotra added an empty-netter with 28.8 seconds left in regulation as Vancouver improved to 7-2-1 in its last 10.
It was Luongo's 700th NHL game, and perhaps his best performance of the season.
"He's been playing really good for us," Burrows said. "He's one of the top goalies, and he showed it again tonight."
The Canucks moved into the lead in the overall standings with 53 points, one more than the New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks and two more than Boston and Detroit -- but all four teams have at least two games in hand.
"We just want to keep winning games," Luongo said when asked about being on top. "We've got a lot of hockey left to play. We want to keep improving every day, keep accumulating points and try to get home-ice advantage in the playoffs."
The Wild, who were riding high atop the Western Conference less than a month ago, lost for the 10th time in 11 games (1-7-3). Not even the return of Devin Setoguchi, who had missed nearly a month with a lower-body injury, made a difference. Setoguchi had five shots on goal, including a pair of excellent chances in the final two minutes -- but like his teammates, he couldn't beat Luongo.
"We had some good chances," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "You could pick up on some frustration on the bench tonight, and some frustration with the guys. We're going to have to fight through this.
"The game was hanging there, all game long. I think if we could have gotten that first one, I felt confident -- we had plenty of chances to get one, for sure. If we could have gotten that, I think that would have eased things on the bench."
It was the 10th consecutive victory for the Canucks against the Wild at Rogers Arena, where they are 11-0-1 since Minnesota won 2-1 on March 21, 2008. Three of the last four wins have been shutouts.
The Canucks wasted little time getting the jump on the Wild. Henrik Sedin carried the puck into the Wild zone and circled back towards the blue line before dropping it off to Daniel, who blasted a one-timer high over a screened Harding at 6:42 for his 18th goal of the season.
Both Sedins played a role in Burrows' goal at 10:24. Henrik carried down the right side and backhanded a pass to Daniel in the left circle. Instead of shooting, Daniel Sedin fed a pass toward the front of the net than an onrushing Burrows knocked home for his 15th.
The two assists moved Henrik Sedin into first place in the NHL scoring race with 48 points; Daniel is tied for second with Philadelphia's Claude Giroux with 46. The twins have combined for three goals and 14 points in the four games against the Wild this season.
"When we got ahead, I thought we could control the game," Henrik Sedin said.
Luongo preserved the lead in the scoreless second period when he got his shoulder on Pierre-Marc Bouchard's blast and gloved a Cal Clutterbuck power-play shot that was headed for the top corner. Later in the period, Luongo stood his ground against Setoguchi on another odd-man rush and found Nate Prosser's blue-line drive through heavy traffic.
With the two points in hand after Wednesday's game, Burrows, for one, said is glad to be getting another shot at the team that cost them the Stanley Cup.
"It's going to be fun," he said. "It's a different year; it's another year for us. We're trying to prepare like it's another game. They're at the top of the League again this year, so it's going to be a great measuring stick, playing in their building in front of their fans.
"We're just going to go in there and try to get two points. That's the bottom line. We're going to try to play the right way, do the right thing and try to get two points."
Material from team media was used in this report
1 - 0 VAN
2 - 0 VAN
3 - 0 VAN
Holding the stick