ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Wild are the only blemish on the Vancouver Canucks’ division record.
Anton Khudobin stopped 32 shots for his first career shutout and Minnesota beat Vancouver again, 4-0 Sunday night.
Andrew Brunette, Martin Havlat, Matt Cullen and John Madden scored for the Wild, who had been outscored 13-2 in three straight losses, but managed to get the better of the Northwest Division leaders for the second time in three meetings this season.
“We’re a strange team, there’s no doubt about it, Brunette said. “You never know what’s going to show up.”
Vancouver has been shut out in two of its last three after a 17-game unbeaten streak. The Canucks are 10-0-0 against the rest of the division.
It’s not just this season, either.
Vancouver has lost its last four in Minnesota by a combined 21-6. The Wild are the first team to beat Vancouver twice in regulation this season.
“This is a great place to play, so it’s tough to put a finger on it,” Canucks captain Henrik Sedin said. “We have the same problem in Vancouver. It’s one of those things.”
Mikael Samuelsson didn’t have a good explanation either.
“There’s a lot of good teams out there, and this is one of them,” he said.
Vancouver played much of the game with just five defencemen after Andrew Alberts left midway through the first period because of a right shoulder injury. He will be re-evaluated Monday. The Canucks lost defenceman Aaron Rome for two to three weeks Friday with a knee injury.
“They did the best they could, but it’s a tough job for them,” goaltender Cory Schneider said. “We’ve been fortunate during this stretch not to lose too many guys, now we’re starting to and we’ll have to deal with it.”
Khudobin was recalled from Houston of the American Hockey League Jan. 8 after it was determined top goaltender Niklas Backstrom would be out for about another week with an injured hip. Jose Theodore, who took over the top goaltender duties, then sustained a similar injury and Khudobin has started two straight.
Backstrom was in uniform for the first time since Dec. 31, serving as the backup.
In his fifth career game, Khudobin was aided by a Wild defence that did a nice job of collapsing around their goaltender to prevent quality rebound opportunities. Two of his better stops came in the third period. He lunged back across the crease to stop Sedin on a power play and stopped Keith Ballard with a right pad save.
“Good teams like that don’t play 40 minutes, they play 60 full minutes and it doesn’t matter what the score is. They just play as hard as they can, so I was ready for that,” Khudobin said.
Vancouver’s best scoring chance was late in the first period, but Minnesota defenceman Brent Burns swatted a puck out of the crease as it was about to trickle over the goal-line.
Brunette gave the Wild a 1-0 lead early in the second period. He was stopped coming in from the right side, but Schneider couldn’t cover the puck, and after a scramble, Brunette dove back to poke it in.
Havlat benefited from Alex Edler’s turnover midway through the period, picking up a loose puck in the neutral zone, going in alone and beating Schneider through the pads.
Cullen made it 3-0 on a short-handed breakaway early in the third after Christian Ehrhoff failed to hold the puck in at the left point. It was Cullen’s third short-handed goal of the season, tying him with four other players for the league lead.
“That Cullen goal was a huge goal,” Wild coach Todd Richards said. “It’s 2-0 and they were pushing and they’re a talented team. They can score quick and can score often, so when the puck went in, I sensed that was enough.
Madden scored on a tip midway through the period.
Notes: It was Vancouver’s worst shutout loss since a 5-0 defeat at San Jose on Dec. 23, 2008. … The teams played the final 10 minutes of the first period without a whistle. … Earlier in the day, the Canucks recalled D Chris Tanev from AHL Manitoba. … Wild D Marco Scandella, who required 25 stitches after getting hit in the ear with a puck Friday, did not play. … Ballard and Minnesota’s Chuck Kobasew fought in the second period. It was Kobasew’s first fight since Feb. 24, 2009, when he fought Ballard.