VANCOUVER (CP) - Roberto Luongo made 20 saves and Tommi Santala scored his first NHL goal in more than three years Wednesday as the Vancouver Canucks beat the Nashville Predators 2-0 in a battle teams seeking to pad division leads.
The shutout was the fourth of the season and 31st of a seven-year career for Luongo, who was not severely tested. Luongo, who held Edmonton and Detroit to one goal apiece in his last two games, registered his NHL-leading 43rd victory of the season, one more than Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils.
The solid defensive effort came with the Canucks missing Willie Mitchell and Sami Salo, two of their top four defencemen. Both players are out with groin injuries.
Jan Bulis scored the other goal for Vancouver, which took a 2-0 first-period lead over the listless Predators.
The Canucks improved to 45-23-6 and restored their three-point lead over the idle second-place Minnesota Wild in the Northwest Division.
The Predators, who lead the Western Conference, dropped to 47-21-6 with their third loss in four games, a result which prevented them from clinching a playoff berth.
The loss still left Nashville leading Detroit by a point in the race for the Western Conference and Central Division titles. Pacific Division-leading Anaheim is two points behind the Predators.
The Canucks dominated the first period, outskating the Predators, winning the battles along the boards and outshooting Nashville 17-4.
Bulis opened the scoring with a soft goal when he had time to tee up a low slapshot from the side boards. The puck entered the net off Tomas Vokoun's left pad.
Santala scored his first goal as a Canuck and second of his NHL career when Trevor Linden's pass from the corner found him in the slot and the Finn scored on a quick wrist shot.
It was the first goal since Nov. 16, 2003 for Santala who was acquired from Atlanta in 2006 for a conditional 2007 fourth-round draft pick.
The second period was scoreless but Alexander Radulov had the best chance for the Predators when he found himself alone in front of Luongo. He made three moves but the puck went off his stick and dribbled wide of the net.
Kevin Bieksa almost made it 3-0 during a 4-on-3 power play in the third period but his shot rattled off the crossbar.
Notes: Mitchell and Salo could be back Sunday against Colorado ... Nashville was missing five forwards - Steve Sullivan (back spasms), Scott Hartnell (foot), Martin Erat (knee), Scott Nichol (thumb) and Jordin Tootoo (suspension) ... The Predators conclude their Northwest Division swing Thursday in Calgary and Saturday in Edmonton, then play five straight at home.