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Canucks start trip on right foot

Thursday, 12.03.2009 / 10:54 AM / NHL Insider

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

"It's a huge confidence boost for our team to come in here (Prudential Center) and get two points. It's the first game of an important road trip for our team and we were in a tough building against a great team. We really wanted to come in here and establish something good to kick off a huge road trip for us."
-- Roberto Luongo

NEWARK, N.J. -- The Vancouver Canucks embarked on the two-hour journey down the New Jersey Turnpike to Philadelphia with two points in their back pocket Wednesday night after a 5-2 win over the Devils.

The relief was almost palpable.

Vancouver, 4-8 on the road coming into Wednesday's game, is a team that has to play 14 straight games away from GM Place, home of the Olympic hockey tournament, later this season. At some point before that daunting challenge the Canucks have to develop a reputation of being a tough road team by playing consistently well.

They might be in the process of doing that right now.

Going back to an 8-2 win over Colorado in the final game of what amounted to a 2-3 trip last month, Vancouver has now outscored the home team 13-4 over its last two games. The Canucks were outscored, 38-22, in their previous 11 road games.

Vancouver still has three games left on their current trip starting Thursday in Philadelphia.

"It's a huge confidence boost for our team to come in here (Prudential Center) and get two points," Vancouver goalie and captain Roberto Luongo said after making 27 saves. "It's the first game of an important road trip for our team and we were in a tough building against a great team. We really wanted to come in here and establish something good to kick off a huge road trip for us."

They did by jumping out to a 3-0 lead just 12 and a half minutes into the game, but even more important is how the Canucks battled back after the Devils struck for two goals at the end of the first period, including Travis Zajac's marker with only six seconds left.

"We approached the second like we were up 1-0 and wanted to make sure we kept going and played a better second than we have in the past, especially recently, and we did an alright job," Canucks left wing Alex Burrows said.  "Going into the third we didn't want to sit back. We wanted to keep pushing to get that next goal. We did and we never looked back."

Alex Edler scored 1:36 into the third period and Jannik Hansen made it 5-2 less than four minutes later. The Canucks, though, played the perfect road game for the last 40 minutes.

They played smart hockey by not turning the puck over and giving the Devils odd-man chances. They forechecked hard and got the puck behind the Devils defense. They sent bodies to the net. They created turnovers. They clogged the passing lanes.

"Good teams win on the road and we're a good team," Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. "We're set out to prove it."

Since he got to Vancouver at the start of the 2006-07 season, Luongo can't remember a time when the team struggled on the road like it has until recently.

The Canucks were 23-15-3 on the road in his first season, 18-18-5 in his second and 21-15-5 last season. That's a 62-48-13 road record, which is pretty darn respectable. It's better than .500 even if you count the 13 overtime/shootout losses and regular losses.

That type of success gives the goalie reason to believe the Canucks will bounce back from their rocky road start to this season. He had even more hope after Wednesday's convincing win over one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

Imagine how he'll feel Thursday if the Canucks can win in Philadelphia, too?

"I just think it's a bit of an aberration," Luongo said. "It's going to be key that we establish something good on the road leading up to that (14-game trip). We have always been a confident team on the road so I don't think it's an issue of being intimated or anything like that. We just have to play our game."

They did in Colorado on Nov. 14 and again in Jersey Wednesday night. Now the task is to keep it going against the hungry Flyers, who are 8-4-1 in their own building.

Contact Dan Rosen at: drosen@nhl.com
Quote of the Day

I remember the first time at Wrigley Field all of us had the long johns, the turtlenecks and the extra equipment because we were afraid of being cold. Halfway through the first period everybody's ripping everything off and we just ended up wearing what we would normally wear for a game at the United Center.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp on the 2009 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic