VANCOUVER – It's usually easy to tell identical twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin apart on the ice: Henrik sets things up, and Daniel finishes them off.
It's been that way through most of their 11-season NHL careers, and long before, ever since Henrik became the play-making center and Daniel the goal-scoring winger growing up as linemates back in their native Sweden. All of which makes it that much tougher on opponents when the twins reverse roles like they did on Monday night.
Daniel Sedin made three of the kind of pretty passes usually associated with his brother, setting up power play goals by Henrik and Ryan Kesler, and another at even strength by Alexandre Burrows en route to a 4-0 win at Rogers Arena that moved Vancouver within three points of the injury-ravaged Minnesota Wild atop the Northwest Division.
"He made three unbelievable passes," said Henrik, who added two assists of his own to grab a share of the League-scoring lead with 39 points, while Daniel moved within a point with 38. "I've said all along he's as good a passer as anyone else in this League. When he's put in that position to make those passes, people can see what happens."
Playing against a Wild team missing four top-six forwards, the Canucks' best four were too much, especially when Minnesota gave their top-ranked power play a chance.
Vancouver's top line had seven points before Jannik Hansen rounded out the scoring with 3:26 left and his career-best 11th goal already this season. And when they were outplayed early, Roberto Luongo bailed the Canucks out, improving to 6-0-1 his last seven starts with 33 saves for his first shutout this season – and first since blanking Minnesota in April – and the 56th of his career, second among active goalies and 18th all time.
More important, said Luongo, was a win against the team they're chasing.
"I'm not going to lie … it's always nice to get a shutout," said Luongo, who lost several in the late stages of games the last two seasons. "But the important thing is a win in a big game coming off a (five-game) road trip. A shutout is just a little bonus."
As for the Sedins, nothing surprises the Canucks' top stopper any more.
"Sometime you wonder how they make those plays, and even after six years they still amaze you with some of the passes they make," Luongo said.
Niklas Backstrom can relate. He finished with 29 stops and was brilliant at times, but couldn't prevent the first four-game losing streak of the season – the previous two were in shootouts -- for the Wild, which had won seven straight before the current run of injuries dropped them out of first overall in the NHL. That it continued in Vancouver is no surprise as Minnesota is 0-7-2 here since its last win in January 2009.
The Wild did get Pierre-Marc Bouchard back after missing two games with a broken nose, and he had the best of the Wild's chances while carrying the play for long stretches of the first period. But with Luongo turning those aside and captain Mikko Koivu atop a list of injured skill forwards that also includes Devin Setoguchi (knee), Guillaume Latenresse (concussion) and Casey Wellman (wrist), there wasn't much chance after the Canucks' top-ranked power play converted two of its first three chances.
"I really liked the start we had and felt we were going really good the first period, doing a lot of good things," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "The next thing you know, we take a penalty and of course they have some skill. They capitalize when you make mistakes. We made a few tonight and they seemed to capitalize on every one of them."
The first was a hooking penalty by hometown boy Colton Gillies. After defenseman Alexander Edler made a diving swipe to end a partial break for Matt Cullen, Henrik Sedin opened the scoring the other way with 1:08 left, one-timing a pretty 2-on-1 feed from Daniel back through the legs of a sliding Backstrom and trickling over the goal line.
The Wild had a chance to tie it on a power play of their own in the second period, but Luongo gloved a good Bouchard chance, Dany Heatley was called for high sticking after swiping at the goalie's mitt, and Kesler parked himself in front of the net to convert another pretty pass from Daniel behind the goal on the ensuing power play.
"I don't think they had too much tonight. We gave them three or four real good chances and they made plays on it," said Heatley, who didn't like the penalty call against him. "Obviously guys are out to the lineup, but we've persevered through it. We gave them three power plays and we get a minute (with the man advantage). That was the difference tonight."
Burrows, coming off consecutive two-point outings, made it 3-0 with 1:59 left in the period after another nice play by Daniel, who deked around defenseman Jared Spurgeon with a strong forehand move, then sifted a backdoor backhander past him to Burrows.
For Daniel, the top line is more dangerous when they don't slip into predictable roles.
"At first Hank was more of the passer, but Burr has shown he can make plays and myself too," said Daniel, who has 13 goals and 25 assists compared to Henrik's 9 goals and NHL-leading 30 assists. "I don't think it needs to be Henrik that passes the puck. He's probably best at it, but when he's at his best is when he shoots, too."
From there, the biggest question was Luongo's shutout behind a defense that lost Aaron Rome to a broken thumb Saturday and Keith Ballard to back spasms Monday morning. He made a point-blank stop on Heatley in the slot three minutes in, glove down Bouchard's slap shot from atop the circles after a bad giveaway eight minutes later, but credited his defense for making it easy against a depleted Wild offense.
"I made a couple saves and the boys took over," Luongo said.
Vancouver did lose second-line winger Mason Raymond in the third period after teammate Kevin Bieksa's clearing attempt caught his cheek, leaving a trail of blood en route to the locker room. But the injury isn't serious.
"He's starting to look like a hockey player," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "A couple stitches. Pretty face, pretty boy … it's almost over."