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Defence does it

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
The Vancouver Canucks have proven they can win the high-scoring games this season, the low-scoring defensive battles not so much.

That came to a screeching halt Thursday night against the Phoenix Coyotes as the Canucks blanked the desert dogs 1-0.

The win, Vancouver's second straight and fourth in the last five games, marked the first time this season the team has put up less than four goals and still come away victorious.

One puck over the goal line was all it took, not that the Canucks stopped trying after Kevin Bieksa opened the scoring 8:04 into the first period.

It was just one of those nights where an opposing goaltender tried to outduel Roberto Luongo and were it not for Bieksa's third goal of the season, Phoenix's llya Bryzgalov might have done just that.

Bryzgalov went toe-to-toe with Luongo and in the end made two more saves than his foe at the other end of the rink, but Captain Louie was there when Vancouver needed him.

"We had some good moments, some good opportunities to put the game away but we met a solid goaltender, just like that met a solid goaltender also tonight," said coach Alain Vigneault.

"We had a few breakdowns there and Louie made some big saves and we found a way to win a 1-0 game."

This was Luongo's second consecutive shutout and the 42nd of his career, he hasn't allowed a goal since Henrik Zetterberg beat him with a backhand at the 18:52 mark of the the second period last Sunday.

Put your calculators away, that's 141:08 of shutout time and 55 saves spanning three games.

"It's a number of things," Luongo explained of his stellar play. "I feel good, the guys are playing well in front of me, we're getting some good bounces our way and it's a combination of things. We just have to make sure we keep building on that and working towards next game and keep playing the same way.

Louie made some spectacular saves, particularly late in the third period with Phoenix pressing for the tying goal. None were bigger than his glove save on former Canucks defenceman Ed Jovanovski who stepped into a shot from the right faceoff circle in the Vancouver zone with 25.2 seconds to play.

A flash of leather was all anyone saw and before Jovanovski could chagrin over the save, GM Place erupted into a flatline of LOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU.

"It doesn't matter, a save is a save," shrugged Luongo. "Obviously it was a more critical point at the end of the game, but it doesn't really matter."

Luongo made 28 saves in all, he was narrowly outdone by Bryzgalov in that regard as the Russian had 30 stops, yet Phoenix's goaltender couldn't stop them all.

Bryzgalov gave it his best on Vancouver's first goal, he would have needed Superman's speed to stop Bieksa's blast.

The rugged defender capped off a nice passing play that had Ryan Kesler feed Alex Burrows, he skated down main street and drew a few defenders before dishing it to Bieksa who was patiently waiting at the right side of the net.

Once Bieksa got the puck he knew exactly what to do with it, and although it's his name on the scoresheet, he was handing out kudos like candy afterwards.

"I didn't really have to do a whole lot tonight, I jump up into the play and great board work by Darcy Hordichuk, he wants the credit for that so I'll give it to him, then Kes and Burr made a great play and I had an empty net and I'll take those."

It's a check in the win column thanks to Bieksa, Luongo and the rest of the Canucks, but it's a victory deserving of an asterisk as Vancouver's power play was once again nowhere to be found.

Despite having more chances to score during 5-on-4 hockey than the sky has stars, the Canucks couldn't beat Bryzgalov going 0-for-7 with over 12 minutes of power play time and six shots on net.

The power play battle continues for Vancouver, they could have made this win a lot easier on themselves with a special teams goal.

"I think our power play could have put this game out of reach," gauged Vigneault. "It had some good chances, it had some tap-in possibilities that we just couldn't finish for whatever reason. But that being said, we had a 1-0 lead going into the third and it's our job to close it down and I thought we did."

Close it down they did, the Canucks also stopped the Coyotes on all three of their power play chances, a stat this important with the Minnesota Wild, the eighth ranked power play team in the NHL, in town on Saturday night.

"I think Minnesota, they play a really tight system," said Alex Burrows, "they don't really give up that much so we'll have to make sure we have out A game going and we have to make sure special teams are good."

1 – Win this season when Vancouver scores less than four goals

Victories by the Canucks this year versus the Pacific Division

4 Wins for Vancouver when leading after two periods

7 – Wins for Vancouver when scoring the game's opening goal

– Saves by Roberto Luongo against Phoenix

Vancouver's offence almost spoiled a brilliant night for Luongo and the defence. 

The Canucks were stymied by Ilya Bryzgalov all night, he stood on hs head to ensure the Coyotes were in the game until the final horn.

Another goal would have made ths a much more comfortable win for everyone.

Two straight games, two straight shutout for Roberto Luongo.

He's playing as well as he has all season, he wasn't overly tested by Phoenix, especially in the second period, but he was there when it counted.

Bobby Lu gets style points for his glove save on Ed Jovanovski with less than a minute to play. It was a beauty.

Vancouver is becoming one stingy team at home on the penalty kill.

The Canucks spoiled all three Phoenix opportunities and are now sixth in the NHL having allowed only three goals on 26 chances at GM Place. That's a succession rate of 88.5 per cent, that's nice.

The power play, well, it clearly still needs a lot of work. Vancouver was 0-for-7 against Phoenix and is 14th overall at 17.6 per cent. Less pretty passing, more garbage goals would do the trick.
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