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Lack lets Canucks shut out Penguins

by Wes Crosby

PITTSBURGH -- Eddie Lack showed no signs of rust in his first start since Nov. 20, leading the Vancouver Canucks to a 3-0 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center on Thursday.

Lack stopped 21 shots for his first shutout in eight starts.

"I think I’ve been struggling a little in the beginning of the season, not getting the bounces," Lack said. "Obviously, getting a goose egg is huge … I feel like we’re really coming together as a hockey team here and there’s great spirit in the locker room and I feel like everything’s feeling good right now. We just have to keep improving and keep working on the stuff that we know we can get better on."

The Canucks defense took a lot of pressure off Lack by smothering the Penguins forwards and holding Pittsburgh to eight shots or fewer in each period.

"I think it means a lot [for Lack]," Canucks coach Willie Desjardins said. "He’s been sitting out a while and been through a lot of things. Coming into this building with this team, it’s got to be a good confidence-booster. But more than getting the shutout is how he played to get it. He played real solid."

Penguins backup goalie Thomas Greiss, who made his first home start of the season, allowed three goals on 31 shots and dropped to 3-2-1.

Vancouver (18-7-1), which is 11-4-0 on the road, dominated the second period, rarely allowing the puck to exit the Pittsburgh zone. The Canucks had two second-period goals that built on a 1-0 lead.

Brad Richardson forced Penguins defenseman Simon Despres to turn over the over behind the Pittsburgh net. Richardson gained possession and shuffled a pass out front to Shawn Matthias, who took a wrist shot past Greiss to give the Canucks a 2-0 lead with 8:26 remaining in the period.

"The game was basically won in the second period. ... In the second period, they had a very good period. They took over the game at that time," Pittsburgh coach Mike Johnston said.

Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist exited the game prior to the goal after being hit by Ryan Stanton near the Vancouver blue line. Hornqvist did not return with an apparent upper-body injury and was replaced by Steve Downie on Pittsburgh’s top line alongside center Sidney Crosby and left wing Nick Spaling.

Johnston did not have an update on Hornqvist afterward.

The Penguins (17-6-2) didn’t record a second-period shot until Paul Martin’s wrist shot with 8:01 remaining, and they surrendered a shorthanded goal to extend the Canucks lead to 3-0.

Canucks forward Jannik Hansen pressured Greiss behind the net when he attempted to play the puck. Greiss tried to pass the puck along the boards, but Hansen knocked the goalie stick out of his hands. The puck settled after bouncing off the boards, and Greiss could not keep Hansen from centering a pass to Richardson, who poked the puck into the empty net with 6:06 left in the period.

"You just have to put it away. Stuff like that happens," Greiss said. "It’s a bad turnover, but you still have to move on and keep playing … We weren’t real sharp this game, but we just have to rebound and win the next one."

Richardson finished with two goals and an assist.

"We want to play well against the top teams, but I don’t think they had their best tonight and I think they’ll probably say that," Richardson said. "I think we obviously did some good things to deter them, but probably not their best effort."

Matthias stripped Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta of the puck behind the net before backhanding a pass to Richardson in front of the crease. Richardson had little space to shoot, but threaded a snap shot between the left post and Greiss' blocker 8:33 into the first period.

"It was a good forecheck tonight," Matthias said. "That’s what were focused on before the game. Talked about how we had to get pucks behind their [defense] and pressure them, and that’s what we did and we got some goals out of it."

Crosby had an opportunity to tie the game with Vancouver defenseman Alexander Edler in the penalty box. Hornqvist slapped a shot that ricocheted off Lack and came to Crosby at the right of the net. The net was vacant, but Crosby's shot went through the crease and hit the left post.

"I had an open net tonight, you hit that usually," Crosby said. "I’d love to get more chances, so I’m not too worried about not scoring. Eventually, the puck goes in, but I need to get more chances, for sure. … There’s no excuse. I’m not going to sit here and make up excuses or reasons."

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