The Vancouver Canucks beat the New Jersey Devils 3-0 Monday at Rogers Arena backed by a 30-save shutout for Roberto Luongo, the 52nd blanking of his career.
Unlike a night prior when ghosts and ghouls were out to play, there was nothing spooky about Vancouver’s third straight win and fifth consecutive victory on home ice after five days off.
Against the offensively challenged Devils, the lowest scoring team in the NHL, the Canucks needed a mere single goal to improve to 5-3-2 this season. Raffi Torres provided that midway through the opening period when he chipped a puck over Martin Brodeur’s right shoulder for his third goal of the season.
Ryan Kesler and Henrik Sedin added insurance markers in the second and third; Kesler caught a break on his fourth of the year as Mason Raymond’s point shot hit Brodeur and Kesler’s skate before sitting on a platter in the crease for the forward to backhand home.
From there it was all Luongo show and thankfully it was a re-run fans adore: saves, saves and more saves.
Lui stopped 12 shots in the first and 19 over the final two periods for his first shutout of the season.
“It’s about the two points,” said Luongo of the shutout. “At the end of the day we wanted to make sure we played the right way and get the W and we did that.
“I think in the first period we didn’t really have our legs, we had a few turnovers there, but we settled in nicely after that, especially in the third, I thought we played some solid hockey protecting that lead.”
Henrik Sedin added the third Vancouver goal with just over six minutes to play, his first score of the season came via penalty shot, the first penalty shot goal of his career.
After being hauled down by Colin White in close on Brodeur, Henrik was sent to centre ice as the crowd rose to its feet. A silly forehand fake and backhand dangle later and the Canucks had a 3-0 lead on their way to a solid team win.
“It was good to get the win,” said Kesler. “Obviously we didn’t have our A-game the first couple of periods, but good teams and great teams find a way to win, even when you get a little relaxed in your own zone. We gave up a lot of scoring chances, but at the same time Lu was there to stand on his hand.”
The Canucks are now off to Edmonton for their second back-to-back game of the season.
The best part about Vancouver having a whack of days off between games was that it gave guys like defenceman Keith Ballard a chance to rest up.
Ballard, who suffered a concussion on October 15 in Los Angeles, missed Vancouver’s last five games, but was able to return to face the Devils and he didn’t miss a beat.
In 16:23 of ice time skating alongside Aaron Rome, Ballard was a plus-1 with a blocked shot, but more importantly, he felt comfortable.
“I felt good,” said Ballard. “I tried to keep it simple tonight and not get out there too long and extend myself too long, not do anything crazy with the puck and get pinned in for a minute or two minutes. When you get those long shifts, that’s when two weeks off kind of kicks in.”
Ballard’s return came just in time for the Canucks as Ryan Parent, Ballard’s replacement, was unable to play versus New Jersey due to a slight groin pull, which he aggravated in practice over the weekend.
Home isn’t only where the heart is, it’s also where the wins are for the Canucks.
Including Monday’s win over New Jersey, Vancouver has now won five straight games at Rogers Arena; overall the Canucks have captured 11 of a possible 12 points on home ice this season.
Vancouver’s home record of 5-0-1 is now tops in the NHL for points as the Canucks remain one of only three teams without a regulation loss in their own barn.
So is it the home cooking? The familiarity of the rink? The sellout streak of 315 games, longest in the NHL? What makes Rogers Arena such a hard rink to play in?
“It’s just an exciting place to play in every night,” said Jeff Tambellini. “It’s such a great building, so electric and it’s nice to have that in front of you every night.
“I think it’s tough for the opposition too,” he added. “This crowd gets going pretty good then we have a couple of shifts where we start buzzing and it becomes an intimidating place to play.”
The Canucks set franchise records for home wins and points last season at 30 and 63, surpassing previous highs of 27 wins and 58 points from 1992-93.
Overall, Vancouver has surpassed 50 points at home in seven of the last nine seasons and over that stretch the Canucks have made the playoffs six times and advanced to the second round on four occasions.
It’s way too early to be talking playoffs, but never too early to make Rogers Arena a torturous place for the opposition.
Henrik Sedin’s first goal of the season came 10 games in, which is, believe it or not, his fourth worst start to the year of his career. Hank has previously gone 20, 18 and 11 games without scoring to open seasons; When Henrik Sedin scored on the penalty shot he broke a streak of two straight penalty shots stopped by the opposition. Vancouver has converted only two of its past 10 penalty shots dating back to February 2006; Daniel Sedin failed to record a point for the first time this season; the Canucks are 3-0-0 versus the Eastern Conference.