VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -Roberto Luongo was quick to credit the Canucks defense for his previous last two shutouts. There was no doubt, however, who deserved the most praise for No. 3.
Luongo made the most sensational of his 29 saves when Vancouver was clinging to a one-goal lead in the second period and backstopped the Canucks to a 2-0 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night for his third consecutive shutout.
"His best performance yet," checking-line center Ryan Kesler said. "He kept us in it."
Sami Salo scored a power-play goal in the first period, and Daniel Sedin added a breakaway tally with 2:41 left to give Luongo his first two-goal cushion in two games. He stopped 28 shots in a 1-0 win over Nashville on Thursday, made 28 saves in a 4-0 victory against Nashville on Tuesday, and has now gone 201 minutes, 8 seconds without allowing a goal.
"It s nice to have but we played a big game tonight, an important game, and we needed two points no matter how we got it," said Luongo, who has four shutouts and five wins in his last six games. " 1/8The shutout 3/8 is just a little added bonus."
It was the best of Luongo's NHL-leading five shutouts, and his biggest saves came against Pierre-Marc Bouchard. He threw out his left pad to take an empty net away from the center 13 minutes into the second period, and slid cross-crease at the last second to stop Bouchard's one-timer with 18 seconds left in the frame.
"They were throwing everything at the net, and a couple of times it was a desperation play. Luckily the guy wasn't able to get it up, and I was able to get a pad on it," Luongo said.
Luongo also stopped Andrew Brunette on a breakaway late in the second, and got his paddle down on Brunette in tight during a power play with eight minutes left.
"He made a couple big saves for us, especially in the third period when they were pressing and at times in the second when they had us handcuffed in our zone," said defenseman Kevin Bieksa, who scored the only goal Thursday and assisted on both Saturday. "That's what he's being doing for us the last three games, making those big saves for us and allowing us to get out of those jams."
Nicklas Backstrom was nearly as good. He finished with 27 saves, but the injury-ravaged Wild has lost four of six after starting the season 6-0-1.
"That couldn't have been great for the people that want a lot of goals, but we have to change the goalies, get worse goalies so we get six, seven goals each," Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said. "We could have scored easy four goals."
With Minnesota missing forwards Owen Nolan and Marian Gaborik and top defenseman Brent Burns, the Canucks controlled most of the opening period thanks to three straight power plays. But Backstrom turned back several point-blank chances before Salo's one-timer beat him through a screen on the third advantage at 13:36. It was only the fourth goal allowed by Minnesota's league-leading, penalty-killing unit.
That was enough for Luongo, who has had lots of defensive help during his shutout streak. But he also needed to make several game-saving stops against the Wild en route to his 43rd career shutout, fourth among active goalies.
"I think we played a pretty good game," he said. "There was a little stretch in the second period where we were battling a little bit but fortunately they weren't able to score, and a little bit at the end of the third. But for the rest of the game we were really solid and did what we've been doing the last week or so."
Luongo has to wait until Colorado visits Wednesday for a chance to improve on the franchise-record shutout streak of 212 minutes, 12 seconds he set last season.
"I'd rather play on Monday, but what are you going to do?" he said.
Notes: It was Backstrom's first regulation loss all time against the Canucks (5-1-1). ... Wild rookie Colton Gillies, playing his first NHL game in his hometown, was in the penalty box for boarding on Salo's goal. ... Vancouver C Pavol Demitra, out since Oct. 19 with fractured rib cartilage, has resumed skating on his own and is expected back at practice next week. ... Minnesota won twice on a four-game road trip and will plays 10 of the next 12 game at home.