This year secondary scoring is the name of the game and it led the Vancouver Canucks to their fourth consecutive win, a 6-0 blanking of the Phoenix Coyotes Wednesday night at the Jobing.com Arena in Phoenix.
Ryan Kesler led the charge with his fifth multi-goal game of the season, including his team-leading 30th goal, and Jannik Hansen, Mason Raymond, Cody Hodgson and Alex Burrows each had singles as the Canucks finished off the backend of two games in two nights with a near perfect effort.
It was picture perfect for goaltender Roberto Luongo as he stopped all 23 shots faced, including nine in the opening period, for his third shutout of the season and the 54th of his career, 27 of which have been recorded while in Vancouver.
“I thought we got better as the game went on and that’s the type of game we want to play, especially on the road, be patient and take advantage of their mistakes and that’s what I think we did tonight and we capitalized on a few goals there,” said Luongo, who hadn’t recorded a shutout since December 3rd, despite a few games served up on a platter.
On two occasions since Luongo’s last shutout he was in line for a complete game only to have the balloon popped in the game’s final moments. Despite having the win in the bag, he couldn’t help but think of his shutout bid when Tanner Glass took a delay of game penalty with 55 seconds left to put the Coyotes on the power play.
It’s safe to assume Glass breathed a huge sigh of relief when the final horn sounded and Luongo’s donut remained intact.
“I told him that if they would have scored, he would have been in big trouble,” laughed Luongo.
The good times keep on rolling for Luongo as he improves to 24-8-7 this season having not lost in regulation in last 18 starts going 13-0-5; over that span, which dates back to December 5th, Luongo has picked up 31 of a possible 36 points for the Canucks.
“I’ve been working hard with Rollie (Roland Melanson) all year to build a good base and when you have a few days off, when you get back you work on the little things and you get right back in the zone. A couple days of work and I was feeling pretty good tonight.”
Surging sniper Ryan Kesler can attest to feeling pretty good these days as well after another outstanding game.
Kesler described his offensive production on the night as getting “lucky a couple of times,” but make no mistake about it, Kesler’s goals were the product of hard work. On his first score Kesler used Raymond as decoy on a 2-on-1 before patiently allowing Adrian Aucoin to slide past him with an attempted block and putting the puck top shelf on Ilya Bryzgalov. Goal number two, scored on an ensuing power play, had Kesler turn and snap a shot under the bar and in on Jason LaBarbera.
“It’s something I take a lot of pride in and it’s paying off for me and that’s the biggest thing, I’m working hard and I’m seeing benefits,” said Kesler of his lethal wrist shot, before crediting Canucks skills coach Glenn Carnegie and strength and conditioning coach Roger Takahashi with helping him add a drag move to his repertoire.
“They both teach me little moves like that that help in the game and you saw it tonight.”
For the second time in three games, Vancouver’s training staff put in some overtime.
In the final game before the all-star break it was Lee Sweatt scoring his first NHL goal and against Phoenix it was Cody Hodgson’s turn to receive a taped-up puck engraved with permanent details of the first NHL goal of his young career.
Hodgson’s second period strike will forever be known as “the hospital goal” because it was scored with a lot of patience.
To cap off a dominant Canucks shift 12 minutes into the second period, Hodgson drove to the net and stick handled around a diving Sami Lepisto, while fending off coverage from Andrew Ebbett, before sliding the puck past Bryzgalov from just outside the crease.
Dan Hamhuis retrieved the puck for Hodgson while he celebrated with teammates along the glass. The 20-year-old has scored a lot of big goals, but this one will undoubtedly go down as one of his favorites.
Alex Burrows hit the 200-point plateau with his first period goal, which counted as the game-winner; 10 Canucks recorded at least a single point in the win; Dan Hamhuis, Mason Raymond and Ryan Kesler were all plus-4 on the night; the Canucks siblings trip finishes at 2-0-0 tying it with the dad’s trip from a few season ago that also went 2-0-0 – no love for the moms as they went winless at 0-1-1 a few years back.