VANCOUVER – Roberto Luongo added more frustration to the New Jersey Devils’ already miserable season.
The Vancouver goaltender made 30 saves for his first shutout of the season as the Canucks came back from a six-day layoff with a 3-0 win over the Devils on Monday.
“It was nice to start what is going to be a busy two weeks for our team with a win,” Luongo said. “We wanted to start off with a win after a long layoff.”
The injury-riddled Devils, who are off to their second-worst start in franchise history and sit last in the league, dropped to 3-9-1 as they suffered their sixth loss in seven games.
“It’s really disappointing,” Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur said. “When you look at the number (of injuries), it’s mind-boggling a little bit. Especially on the back, on our blue-line, some of our young guys are getting dominated a lot in the zone. When you don’t score goals, everything is magnified.”
Raffi Torres, Ryan Kesler and Henrik Sedin, on a third-period penalty shot, scored for the Canucks before a sellout crowd of 18,860 at Rogers Arena.
The Devils were missing eight injured regulars, including Zach Parise. The high-scoring winger returned to New Jersey where he will have exploratory arthroscopic knee surgery.
Meanwhile, some healthy Devils are playing below expectations. New Jersey superstar Ilya Kovalchuk, who signed a controversial 15-year, US$100-million contract in the off-season, was held pointless for a fourth straight game.
Luongo foiled Kovalchuk early in the first period as he one-timed Henrik Tallinder’s rebound.
“I like to face a few shots early just to get a feel, especially after not playing for a week, and I was able to do that right away tonight,” Luongo said. “Especially that rebound save off of Kovalchuk, (it) really got me going the rest of the game.”
Despite being outshot 30-23, the Canucks posted their third straight win and improved to 5-3-2, earning 11 of a possible 12 points at home.
“In the first period, we didn’t really have our legs,” said Luongo, who earned his 25th shutout as a Canuck and 52nd overall. “We had a few turnovers there, but we settled in nicely after that, especially in the third. We played some solid hockey, protecting our lead.”
Torres scored the only goal that Vancouver needed 13:19 into the game as New Jersey defenceman Matt Taormina fell while circling behind the net. The miscue allowed Manny Malhotra to pass it out to Torres, who scored his third goal of the season.
“We were controlling the game, fumbled the puck behind our net and it’s in our net–here we go again,” Brodeur said. “When you don’t score the first goal it’s hard when your confidence is low, the way our offence is now.”
Brodeur said he tried to play the puck to Taormina, but the move “backfired” as the young defenceman tried “stop on a dime” after confronting Malhotra.
After Kesler put the Canucks ahead 2-0 just over a minute into the second period, the Devils had a goal disallowed at 8:29 of the middle frame as David Clarkson was called for goaltender interference.
“They were crashing the net hard,” Luongo said. “Luckily, I got that call in the second period. It’s nice to get those once in a while.”
Sedin was awarded his penalty shot at 13:47 of the third as Colin White tripped him on a breakaway. The Canucks captain deked Brodeur and then skated around him and put a backhand into the net.
Although Sedin won the 2010-11 scoring title, he has struggled in shootouts and is rarely used in them.
“To be honest with you, I thought he had a zero per cent chance on that…I was surprised,” said Luongo.
“That was his best attempt,” added Canucks coach Alain Vigneault with a grin.
Brodeur, who lost the starting job on Canada’s team at the Vancouver Olympics to Luongo after struggling in the same arena, made 20 saves on 23 shots. But Luongo downplayed the significance of the win over Brodeur, who grew up in the same Montreal neighbourhood as his Canucks counterpart.
“It’s just a win,” Luongo said. “We know we have a tough conference and we want to get as many wins as possible to establish a good (playoff) seed–as soon as possible. We don’t want to dig ourselves a hole and climb back like we did last year.”
After playing one game in nine nights, the Canucks now embark on four in six, starting Tuesday night in Edmonton.
NOTES: Canucks winger Alex Burrows will make his regular season debut Tuesday night in Edmonton after recuperating from off-season shoulder surgery.…Defenceman Keith Ballard returned to the Vancouver lineup after missing five games due to a concussion. They were the first games he has missed since 2006-07 with Phoenix.…Brian Rolston (sports hernia) and defenceman Anton Volchenkov (broken nose/stiff neck) were among the eight Devils out.…Vancouver winger Daniel Sedin’s season-opening points streak ended at nine games.