VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -The Vancouver Canucks finally built on a late lead instead of giving it up.
Roberto Luongo made 14 of his 32 saves in the third period before Trevor Linden scored into an empty net with 1:26 left to lift the Canucks to a 4-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night.
Although Brendan Morrison's short-handed goal made it 3-1 late in the second period, the Canucks knew they still had work to do. Especially since they had surrendered two-goal leads the last two games and Detroit came in with the most third-period goals in the NHL.
"The only thing we talked about between the second and third period was this was a great challenge for us and go out there and trust your instincts," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "Detroit is the best team in the third period in the league."
Bryan Smolinski and Lukas Krajicek also scored, and Daniel Sedin and Matt Cooke each had two assists, as Vancouver remained one point ahead of Minnesota atop the Northwest Division. The Canucks improved to 7-1-1 in their last nine games despite finishing 0-for-9 on the power play in a penalty-filled game.
"It was huge," Luongo said. "They came in with the best record in the NHL. It was a good statement game that we match up against anybody in this league."
Pavel Datsyuk scored for Detroit and Dominik Hasek stopped 35 shots. The Red Wings lost in regulation for just the second time in 14 games (9-2-3) and fell one point behind Nashville atop both the Central Division and the overall NHL standings.
Hasek faced 33 shots in the first two periods as Detroit gave up a season-high 39 - including Linden's empty-netter.
"It was hard because they were like a beast around the net," Hasek said. "First two periods they came really hard, lots of shots. There were a few shots I didn't see and always somebody for the rebound."
As hard as it was for Hasek early, it figured to be tougher for the Canucks late.
Already missing defenseman Willie Mitchell for a third game with a sore groin, the Canucks lost Sami Salo to tweaked groin late in the second period, giving Detroit their best chance to get on consecutive power plays midway through the third. But Kyle Calder's shot at an empty net hit Mattias Ohlund's skate early on the first advantage and Luongo took care of the rest.
"It was really a gutsy effort by our 'D,"' Vigneault said.
The Canucks were outshot 14-6 in the final period, but Vancouver's All-Star goalie got a piece of Nicklas Lidstrom's blast with his glove and caught Mikael Samuelsson's shot through traffic for his 41st win.
"We challenged ourselves in here tonight to go out and prove we could play a full 60 minutes and we came out and had a great third (period)," Morrison said. "We didn't sit back as much as we have in the past. It was a good test, we got to challenge ourselves and answer some questions about playing a full 60 minutes and we did.
Datsyuk was the only one to beat Luongo, scoring on an early 5-on-3 power play. He one-timed a cross-crease pass to extend his point streak to 10 games, matching his career-best with a run that has seen him total three goals and 13 assists.
Smolinski tied it at 11:41, just 1 second after another power play expired, when he beat Hasek to the far side along the ice with a backhand wraparound.
Vancouver outshot the Detroit 18-9 in a penalty-filled first period, but Hasek made several great saves during Vancouver's last three power plays of the period. He robbed Brendan Morrison twice, and stopped Daniel Sedin on the goal line.
But Hasek got caught trying to beat Sedin to loose a puck behind his own net on the go-ahead goal. He just got back in time to stop Sedin's wraparound, but the puck went straight to Krajicek, who snapped in his first goal in 24 games.
"We took too many penalties, that's the game, said Detroit coach Mike Babcock.
Morrison added an insurance goal after stripping the puck from Robert Lang on a Detroit power play. He raced to the other end for a return pass from Cooke and snapped a shot past Hasek low on the stick side with 2:50 left in the period.