VANCOUVER – Todd Bertuzzi downplayed the hype of playing his first NHL game in Vancouver in 17 months.
But Tuesday turned out to be a night to remember for all the wrong reasons. Bertuzzi was on the ice for both of Vancouver’s even-strength goals as the Canucks scored a rare 4-0 victory over the Anaheim Ducks. Markus Naslund, one of Bertuzzi’s best friends on the Canucks before he was traded to Florida in June 2006, opened the scoring and added an assist.
Ryan Kesler got two power-play goals as Anaheim ran into penalty trouble, giving up 10 power plays, including four two-man advantage situations.
And Roberto Luongo, the all-star goalie who was the centrepiece of Bertuzzi’s trade to the Panthers, kept his club in the game during a rocky first period and recorded his second straight shutout with a 26-save performance.
“Disappointing,” was how Bertuzzi, one of the least loquacious players when was a Canuck, assessed his night.
“I thought we played well in the first (period) but for some reason we backed off in the second.”
But at least his return to Vancouver, where he played most of his career before being traded one season after his suspension for the March 8, 2004 attack on Steve Moore of the Colorado Avalanche, is over.
“It’s time to move on, I think, for everyone,” said Bertuzzi who got a muted but warm welcome from Vancouver fans who saved their boos and wrath for Duck defenceman Chris Pronger, especially after he cross-checked Kesler as he celebrated his first goal.
The Ducks dismissed Vancouver from the 2006 Stanley Cup playoffs in five games and hadn’t lost at GM Place since Dec. 28, 2002, a span of six straight victories.
But this was their third loss in four games, while the Canucks gained sole possession of first place in the Northwest Division with eight wins and points in 10 of their last 12 games.
Luongo, who has 135 minutes 34 seconds of shutout hockey, was sharp in the first period when the Canucks were outshot 15-5.
He beat Todd Marchant who intercepted a poor clearing attempt, denied Travis Moen on a three-on-one break and turned aside Andy McDonald’s shot after a giveaway.
“They were firing everything and I was able to challenge the shooter every time,” said Luongo who also had back-to-back blankings when he was a Panther.
“I was lucky there was no back-door plays and no rebounds. That makes me much more comfortable knowing that I can focus on the shooter.”
Naslund and Kesler said they are becoming more confident with the puck after Naslund scored his seventh goal in seven games and Kesler counted his fourth in four.
“I feel pretty confident out there right now with the puck and I think it’s just going to grow,” said Kesler, who is coming off an injury-plagued season. “You guys (reporters) have been waiting for it; I’ve known it was there.”
Naslund now has 11 goals this season as his trademark wrist shot is finding the net.
“I feel good about my game,” said Naslund who scored with Bertuzzi skating nearby. “I feel I’ve got my head in the right place.
“I try to get (the wrist shot) off a little more quicker and so far so good.”
Matt Cooke completed the scoring in the third period by tipping Alex Edler’s point shot, chasing goalie J.S. Giguere who was replaced by Jonas Hiller.
Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said Bertuzzi’s performance mirrored that of the rest of the team.
“He had a decent first period but after that he fit into the mold with our group. We’re trying to find our consistency right now.”
Notes: It was Bertuzzi’s third game after sitting out 14 with a concussion. … From 1997-98 to 2003-04 he played 518 games for the Canucks and picked up 188 goals, 261 assists for 449 points. … He also had 822 penalty minutes. … It was Vancouver’s first game against the Stanley Cup champions since they eliminated the Canucks from the second round of the playoffs.