VANCOUVER -- The Canucks are heading back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the NHL's top team, something that would be hard to believe if you read the press clippings in Vancouver throughout the season.
Captain Henrik Sedin ended a 22-game goal drought by scoring a power-play goal with 4:13 left in the second period, Roberto Luongo made 17 saves and Vancouver secured the top spot in the NHL for a second straight season by beating the Edmonton Oilers 3-0 at Rogers Arena on Saturday night.
"Pretty good for a terrible season," Sedin said of a year in which the team has been criticized at times even for how it won games.
Sometimes they won with too defensive a style, other wins were too close. But at the end of the season, with eight wins in their last nine games, 51 overall and a little help down the stretch, the Canucks again won the Presidents' Trophy.
"I don't think there's a specific way to win it," Luongo said. "It's not something that's easy to do. There are a lot of great teams in this league and I think the fact we won last year, a lot of teams used us a measuring stick and brought out their A-game against us. It wasn't always 5-1, but we grinded out some wins."
For a while it looked like they would have to grind out another one against an Oilers team near the opposite end of the standings. Much like Thursday night in Calgary, the Canucks were up just 1-0 after 40 minutes. They lost that game -- and control of their destiny atop the standings – but this time Samuel Pahlsson and David Booth provided some breathing room with third-period goals.
With St. Louis losing to Phoenix on Friday and the New York Rangers beaten by Washington earlier Saturday, Vancouver needed only one point to lock up home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs, starting with a first-round match up against the Los Angeles Kings.
"We know we are going to start at home every round, and that's what you want," Henrik said when asked what the Presidents' Trophy meant.
The Canucks came out like they wanted it, outshooting the Oilers badly but unable to put the puck past Devan Dubnyk until getting a four-minute advantage for their struggling power play. With former Canuck Darcy Hordichuk taking the extra double minor for roughing for punching Maxim Lapierre during a post-whistle scrum, Dubnyk made the first save off Alexander Edler's hard point shot through a screen. But the rebound bounced to Alexandre Burrows in the low slot -- and rather than firing it back at the hot goalie, he slid the puck across to Sedin, who lifted it high over the sprawling goaltender from a sharp angle.
"Everybody could tell by how we came out in this game our guys really wanted it," coach Alain Vigneault said. "To win the Presidents' Trophy again says a lot about the group of people and the quality of the people we have."
The goal ended a long drought for Henrik, who was playing his ninth straight game without concussed twin brother Daniel, and for the power play, which came into the game tied for fifth in the NHL despite a 2-for-36 funk over the previous 10 games and was 0-for-3 to that point in the game.
"It has been a while so it was nice," Henrik said. "Our power play was better. We had the shots, we had guys going to right areas."
Pahlsson added an insurance goal -- his first goal in 14 games -- 3:14 in the third period, before Booth snapped a 10-game drought of his own during another four-minute power play midway through the final period.
"We spent a little bit too much time in the penalty box and paid for it," Oilers coach Tom Renney said. "That's a pretty strong team over there and they're pretty much in tune with what their game needs to look like. They don't give you too much and they can overcome most of their opponents and they did with us tonight."
Vancouver finished 2-for-7 on the power play -- and it could have been more if not for Dubnyk, who finished with 39 saves, including a head-first dive across the crease to get his paddle on a Chris Higgins shot in the third period.
For a while it didn't look like the Canucks would beat the big goalie. He robbed Booth on a backdoor feed, closed the pads on a Ryan Kesler breakaway and robbed Burrows alone in tight on a power play – all in the first five minutes.
"I really wanted to win tonight," Dubnyk said. "I think everybody did. I just wanted to continue to work on the things that have been working for me and make sure I felt good going into the off-season."
The Canucks wanted to make sure they felt good going into the postseason.
That was especially true for Luongo, who was pulled from his last start, and Booth, who was benched twice in the previous three games as he got ready for the first playoff experience of his six-year NHL career.
"I just felt better out there tonight," said Booth, who finished with 11 shots and walked around Jeff Petry at the blue line before beating Dubnyk 1-on-1 with a shot just off and under the blocker. "The playoffs are right around the corner. Now it's finally here, my first post-season. I'm really looking forward to it."
So is Luongo, who helped the Canucks get to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final last season before losing to the Boston Bruins. He made his best save off Ryan Jones on a shorthanded breakaway shortly after Sedin scored, throwing out the left pad to keep the Canucks ahead. And while he needed some help – Sam Gagner couldn't score into an empty net on a 3-on-2, and Jordan Eberle and Ales Hemsky then both hit posts – Luongo made a nice save on Eric Belanger on a 2-on-1 with 4:31 left for his fifth shutout of the season -- and 60th of his career.
"Those are things you reflect when your career is over," Luongo said of the shutout, which puts him second on the NHL active list, and 16th all-time.
"We've got bigger things ahead right now."
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