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Lack's 20 saves help Canucks edge Blues

by Kevin Woodley

VANCOUVER -- Mired in their worst losing streak in 15 years, the Vancouver Canucks would have been happy with a win against any team.

Snapping the skid against the St. Louis Blues was a confidence-boosting bonus.

Jannik Hansen scored on a breakaway with 8:47 left in the third period, Eddie Lack stopped 20 shots and the Canucks snapped a seven game losing streak with a 1-0 win against the Central Division-leading Blues on Wednesday at Rogers Arena.

Coming off the 2014 Sochi Olympic break, it was Vancouver's first win in a month.

"Huge win for us to have the break and come back with a win and start feeling good about our game," Canucks captain Henrik Sedin said. "It's in my mind maybe the most complete team in the League and we played them well this year and we did it again tonight."

The Canucks swept the three-game season series against St. Louis, and Lack was in goal for all three. The rookie backup was at his best when he made 11 saves in the second period, but needed three stops in the third to secure his third shutout of the season, giving the Canucks their first win since Jan. 26 and their fifth in 20 games in 2014.

"A huge relief," Lack said. "It feels very good to be able to shut the door."

Hansen provided all the offense Lack needed after fourth-line forward Tom Sestito flipped a backhand high out of his own zone. Hansen skated after it at center ice, outracing defensemen Roman Polak and Carlo Colaiacovo before snapping a quick shot between the blocker and body of Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak.

"Great play by Tommy," Hansen said. "He could see I was taking off a little early and he fed me a nice pass up the middle and I was able to get it through the goalie."

The win moves Vancouver into the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference, leapfrogging the idle Dallas Stars and Phoenix Coyotes by a point, though each has played three fewer games.

"You don't have to look at the standings long to see we need to win a lot of games to make the playoffs," Hansen said. "These are the teams you have to beat. We can't just beat the teams below us."

Halak finished with 34 saves for the Blues, who remained tied with the Chicago Blackhawks atop the Central Division with 84 points. It was the first time the Blues have been shut out all season.

"We had a great second period, but we've had trouble beating this goalie," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We haven't scored on him and he's made some big saves and he's won a lot of the scrambles. We had all the penetration in the second period."

Lack kept it scoreless in the second by turning aside Vladimir Tarasenko on a tip alone in tight early, making a good left pad save off a David Backes one-timer in the slot on a delayed penalty midway through and stopping Chris Stewart on a 2-on-1 opportunity with three minutes left. He got a break when Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler kicked away T.J. Oshie's shot at an open net during a late power-play scramble.

"Outstanding. Big saves at key times," Vancouver coach John Tortorella said of Lack. "I think he settles the team down, just the way he plays. There's not a lot of extra motion. He ate pucks tonight. There wasn't a lot of extra rebounds. He played very well."

As good as he was in the second, Lack faced three shots in the third.

"The D-men did an excellent job of boxing out and the forwards blocked some shots, so it's a really good [effort] all around for us," Lack said. "It was very big for our team."

So was getting Henrik Sedin back. The Canucks captain missed six of eight games and the Olympics with a rib injury, then had to fly to Sweden early this week after his father-in-law passed away. He flew back on Wednesday morning, and provided a big lift to a team that lost center Ryan Kesler to a hand injury at the Olympics.

"A lot of flying, a lot of emotional ups and downs, but I never felt I wasn't going to play this game," Sedin said. "It was a big game for our team after the break, needing to get off to a good start and if you were able to, this was a game you really wanted to play."

The 16 players who took part in the 2014 Sochi Olympics were honored in a pre-game ceremony. Thirteen played, not counting Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo, who watched from the bench. St. Louis started five of their nine Olympians, with the gold medal-winning pairing of Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo on defense and a new top forward line of Americans Backes and Oshie with Swede Patrik Berglund, who moved to left wing. By the third period, all the travel appeared to catch up to the Blues' Olympians.

"Pretty sluggish," Oshie said. "Our line was over in Sochi, but the zones are so much longer and obviously the boards aren't as wide. It just seemed like it was a long ways to go from the top of the circles to the blue line."

The Canucks went into the Olympic break on their worst losing streak since 1999, but came out outshooting the Blues 14-6 in the first period, forcing Halak to make a handful of good stops on rebounds and scrambles.

"They've been sitting here getting blasted for probably a month now, and they're very desperate," Hitchcock said. "They're desperate to get back in the race."

Another win against the Blues was a good first step, especially since it was settled in the third period, a time when the Canucks have struggled mightily all season, blowing leads and scoring the fewest goals in the NHL.

"This is what we talked about after the second period: It was a great opportunity for us to start this capsule of our season with a third period like this, and try to find a way to win a third period," Tortorella said. "It was a perfect situation. We didn't give them much, scored a big goal and I felt we were trying to make plays throughout it. Take small steps here, try to regain our confidence, and tonight helped us."

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