DETROIT – The Vancouver Canucks moved a big step closer toward securing home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
Daniel Sedin scored twice and Roberto Luongo made 39 saves, leading Vancouver to a 2-1 win against the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night.
The NHL-leading Canucks have won eight of nine, building a 10-point lead over Detroit—the second-place team in the Western Conference—with eight games left. Vancouver has an eight-point edge over East-leading Philadelphia.
“It’s good, for sure,” forward Henrik Sedin said. “I think we all know math a little. It’s going to be tough for the other teams to catch up.”
The Red Wings, who sit atop the Central Division, are in an 0-2-1 slump and are 4-4-3 this month.
Detroit is hurting without key players Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen, both of whom are being rested because of lower body injuries. The Red Wings have a clear goal down the stretch.
“Get healthy,” coach Mike Babcock said. “Getting healthy would be a home run for us.”
Sedin, the league scoring leader with 95 points, has at least one in nine straight games to improve his chances of being the NHL MVP a year after his twin brother won the award.
“Henrik’s doing most of the talking,” he said. “He’s been pumping me up.”
Daniel Sedin rode a wave of emotions into the Motor City, playing two days after being with his wife for the birth of their third child.
“Imagine if he would’ve practised once,” Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault joked. “He was off for four days, flew in (Tuesday) night and was able to get in a morning skate.”
He scored off Detroit defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom’s skate at 6:31 of the second period and gave Vancouver a two-goal lead with a power-play one-timer midway through the third against stickless goalie Jimmy Howard.
Jiri Hudler’s power-play goal off a rebound with 8:22 left pulled the Red Wings within a goal, but they couldn’t get the puck past Luongo again.
Howard made 31 saves after being pulled in the second period of Monday night’s loss to Pittsburgh when he gave up four goals.
“Jimmy was fine,” Babcock said.
Sedin clearly doesn’t need luck to score, but he was fortunate on both of his goals.
He pushed the puck across the front of the crease and it caromed off Lidstrom’s left skate and slid between Howard’s pads in the first period.
“That was lucky, but those types of goals happen,” Detroit forward Henrik Zetterberg said.
Howard had no shot to stop Sedin’s second goal—a sharp shot from the top of the right circle—because the goalie lost his stick going from post to post after his teammates failed to clear the puck.
“We had the puck in the corner and we need to get the puck down the ice,” Babcock said.
Hudler, back in the lineup after missing three games because of an upper body injury, made it 2-1 when he banged in a loose puck that Luongo couldn’t control.
“I thought we were better than them in the first and they were better than us in the second,” Babcock said. “In the third, we had every opportunity. It was a good hockey game.”
Luongo said the up-tempo style was like a playoff game.
“This definitely had that feel,” he said.
Notes: The Red Wings put G Chris Osgood on the injured list because of a groin injury and hope he will be able to play during the last weekend of the regular season. … Detroit recalled G Joey MacDonald from Grand Rapids (AHL) to back up Howard. … Canucks D Kevin Bieksa played after missing 15 games with a broken foot from a blocked shot. … Former Red Wings forward Mikael Samuelsson was scratched by the Canucks because of injuries to his groin and hip. … Detroit RW Todd Bertuzzi was scratched out with a back injury. … The teams split their four-game season series.