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Wild give Luongo a rude sendoff

by Brian Hunter
Roberto Luongo hasn’t seen much of Vancouver lately, but he’ll see plenty of it over the next two weeks.

The All-Star goaltender who will represent Team Canada in the Winter Olympics probably doesn’t want to see the Minnesota Wild again anytime soon.

The Wild connected for four power-play goals and chased Luongo to the bench as they won 6-2 Sunday at Xcel Energy Center, dropping the Canucks to .500 for the first eight games of their marathon road trip.

"You could see that we weren't really ready to play," defenseman Sami Salo said. "They made some good plays and scored some nice goals, and we couldn't get going at any point in the game."

Niklas Backstrom stopped 27 shots and won his first game in over three weeks, and Minnesota closed to within seven points of a Western Conference playoff berth.

Guillaume Latendresse, Kyle Brodziak, Marek Zidlicky, Andrew Brunette, Cal Clutterbuck and newcomer Cam Barker all scored for the Wild. Barker, acquired from the Blackhawks right before the pre-Olympic trade freeze, beat backup Andrew Raycroft on a power play with 1:40 remaining.

"If teams want to take liberties and unnecessary penalties and retaliatory penalties, that's where your power play has got to step up," Wild coach Todd Richards said.

Clutterbuck had scored off a long rebound at 8:04 of the third to end Luongo’s night. He was beaten five times on 32 shots, the second time this season Minnesota has touched him up for five goals.

Mason Raymond and Mikael Samuelsson scored third-period goals for Vancouver, which is tied with Colorado atop the Northwest Division with a game in hand. The Canucks will still have six road games remaining after the Olympic break before they get GM Place back in mid-March.

"I'm not ready to use that as an excuse," Luongo said. "You've got to dig deep sometimes when you're tired and find a way to win."

Raymond scored 4:02 into the third to make it a 3-1 game and temporarily give the Canucks life, but the Wild regained full control on goals by Brunette and Clutterbuck 58 seconds apart. They also scored twice in under a minute in the second period.

Brunette beat Luongo with a power-play backhander at 7:06 and Clutterbuck ended up scoring his career-high 12th of the season when he beat the Vancouver defense to the puck after Luongo stopped Brodziak on a breakaway. At that point, Raycroft was summoned from the bench to finish out the game.

"I don't know if it was the overall fatigue or if quite a few of our big guns had their minds somewhere else," coach Alain Vigneault said, "but it is what it is."

Minnesota built a 3-0 lead over the first 40 minutes. Latendresse struck on the power play with 6:43 left in the first period, scoring off an Owen Nolan rebound for his 20th goal of the season and 18th in 36 games since being acquired from Montreal in late November.

Brodziak scored 8:22 into the second and Zidlicky followed with a power-play goal 56 seconds later.

"I hope we didn't ruin his confidence," said Latendresse, a fellow Canadian who will be rooting for Luongo to do well when he plays in the Olympics.

Material from wire services was used in this report.

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