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Miller, Canucks blank reeling Blue Jackets

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- The way goaltender Ryan Miller is playing, the Vancouver Canucks can play what they perceive as a poor game and still defeat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-0 in Nationwide Arena on Friday for their third straight win.

Miller stopped 31 shots for his second consecutive shutout and has not allowed a goal in 152:05. It was the third shutout of his first season with the Canucks (16-6-1) and the 32nd of his career.

"We were lucky. Ryan Miller played really well," Vancouver coach Willie Desjardins said. "I thought he was the difference."

The Canucks have allowed one goal in their past three games.

"I feel like I'm building the right kind of game to play with this team," Miller said. "The guys are doing a nice job. I'm starting to get a feel for what certain D-men like to do and where they present themselves on the ice for certain plays."

Chris Higgins scored in the second period and Henrik Sedin, Shawn Matthias, Brad Richardson (into an empty net) and Alexandre Burrows put the game away for the Canucks, who improved to 9-3-0 on the road in the first of seven straight games away from Rogers Arena.

"For us on the road, we had to find a way to keep it quiet and get a goal," Miller said. "The third period we were really efficient with the puck."

The Blue Jackets (6-14-2), losers of five straight and 14 of 16, had familiar problems surface after playing the Canucks even the first 35 minutes.

Higgins put the Canucks ahead 1-0 with 4:35 left in the second period on a shot that Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky should have stopped. He was dueling Miller save-for-save until Higgins fired from a bad angle near the left corner. Bobrovsky (25 saves) left enough space between his pads and the post for the puck to sail into the net for Higgins' fifth goal.

It was the second straight Friday game in which Bobrovsky was beaten on a shot he usually stops. In a 4-3 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins on Nov. 21, he missed a shot from about 80 feet that sparked a Bruins' comeback.

"It seems like we don't have enough confidence," forward Nick Foligno said. "It sounds stupid. It's kind of the thing I notice most. We get scored on and we deflate. It's a mentality you have to have and we don't have it right now.

"The other thing is you have to score goals. Credit to Miller but we didn't test him enough. Sometimes when you're not playing a great game you have to be opportunistic. We're not doing that either."

Higgins thought the Blue Jackets had trouble recovering from his goal and it carried over into the third when Henrik Sedin scored 48 seconds in to give the Canucks a 2-0 lead.

"That's the kind of season they're having," he said of Columbus. "Sometimes when you let one goal in that maybe they shouldn't have it really takes the wind out of their sails."

Sedin's goal was assisted by linemates Radim Vrbata and Daniel Sedin. Vrbata skated behind the net and dropped the puck behind him to an open Henrik to the left of the goal. Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who was focused on Vrbata, was unable to get across the crease in time and Sedin scored his sixth goal of the season.

"(Vrbata) waited a long time," Henrik said. "I thought it might be too late. It was a nice pass. That was big for us."

Henrik Sedin has 13 goals and 42 points in 49 games vs. Columbus; twin brother Daniel has 13 goals and 43 points in 50 games against the Blue Jackets.

"We were playing really good hockey the first two periods then boom, boom, something goes wrong and it's in the back of the net," Foligno said. "We don't have that push back."

Vancouver then took advantage of the pressing Blue Jackets. Matthias scored with 8:11 remaining off an outlet pass that he took in stride at the blue line before beating Bobrovsky for his third goal of the season to make it 3-0.

"They had to open up and come after us," Desjardins said. "That's a tough spot to be in."

Richardson scored with 5:22 to play and Bobrovsky on the bench in favor of an extra attacker, and Burrows beat Bobrovsky with 2:34 remaining.

"It really wasn't a great game for us," Higgins said. "I don't think the score was too indicative of our play tonight. We scored timely goals but there wasn't really too much positive to say."

But there was more than what the Blue Jackets can could up with after a second 5-0 loss at home in the past five games.

"We did play pretty well for the majority [of the game]," Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson said. "We just couldn't score. They do have one of the best goalies in the world, no question, but we didn't score. They only needed one to win. It's pretty unacceptable being shut out in the NHL."

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