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Lukowich leads Canucks to fifth straight

by Brian Hunter
Veteran defenseman Brad Lukowich spent much of this season playing for the Vancouver Canucks' affiliate in the American Hockey League.

But on Monday night, he got to live a dream as the NHL club extended its winning streak to five games.

Lukowich scored his first goal of the season 5:21 into the third period as the Canucks claimed a 3-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres at GM Place.

Lukowich was set up by Daniel Sedin, who cut into the slot before making a drop pass between his legs. Pinching in from the point, Lukowich beat Ryan Miller with a wrist shot. He last scored on Nov. 5, 2007 while playing for Tampa Bay.

"It's a dream come true," Lukowich, a 12-year veteran who played junior in Kamloops, B.C., said after scoring his first goal in 111 NHL games.

"I've been a Canuck fan since I was three or four years old. I've still got my sweaters. They've been handed down to my nephews now. For me to be playing in my hometown, it's pretty amazing."

Lukowich was called up after injuries to Willie Mitchell, Kevin Bieksa and Sami Salo depleted the Canucks' blue line. He made his presence on the ice known on the rush that resulted in the winning goal.

"He was screaming like crazy, so he was easy to find," Daniel Sedin said.

Mikael Samuelsson and Henrik Sedin also scored for Vancouver, which pulled into a first-place tie with Colorado in the Northwest Division. Roberto Luongo stopped 30 shots.

Thomas Vanek evened the score at 2-2 with a power-play goal 1:49 into the third for the Sabres. Tim Connolly drew the primary assist, extending his points streak to 16 games. Adam Mair also picked up his first of the season to open the scoring in the second period.

This was the finale of a seven-game road trip for Northeast Division-leading Buffalo, which went 2-3-2 and has lost four straight overall.

"What we needed was a lot more support and tightening up, and we ended up playing too cautious against them," Miller said.

"That's what they want. They want to slow it down, and we let them do it."

Trailing 2-1 and down a man late in the second period, the Sabres had the tying goal disallowed. Craig Rivet's shot deflected in off the glove of Canucks defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, but referee Kerry Fraser called a penalty on Paul Gaustad for cross-checking Ehrhoff into the net. Buffalo was able to kill off the ensuing 5-on-3 advantage for Vancouver.

"I understand it, I don't like it," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "I don't like the call. I just felt it was more incidental contact. If you're going to call that you better call about 75 cross-checks in the game around the front of the net."

Looking for their first win in Vancouver in over a decade, the Sabres took a 1-0 lead on Mair’s goal 3:13 into the second.

Samuelsson tied the game off a backhand shot five minutes later and Henrik Sedin gave the Canucks their first lead at 11:33 when he took Alexandre Burrows' pass and went in on a breakaway. Sedin drew Miller out of position with a backhand fake, then reached around the goalie to put a forehand shot into the open net.

Material from wire services and team online media was used in this report.
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