VANCOUVER, B.C. – He’s gone over two games without allowing a goal, but Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo would rather concentrate on the future than dwell on the past.
Luongo stopped 28 shots and defenceman Kevin Bieksa scored the only goal Vancouver would need in a 1-0 win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night. The victory extended Luongo’s shutout streak to over 141 minutes as the Canucks won for the fourth time in five games.
“It’s a small stretch of the season,” said the Canucks captain after recording his league-leading fourth shutout of the season and third in five games. “We have to stay down to earth and make sure we work hard every night.
“We can’t bank on what we did the last five or six games to carry us over the next one. We have to make sure we come out as a team and work hard again.”
The win improved the Canucks’ record to 8-6-0, and gave them four victories in six home games to start the season.
“This is where you have to be really good,” said forward Ryan Kesler. “Teams have to be scared coming into your building, thinking they are going to lose.
“We are playing good but we’re not going to let it get to our heads. When that happens we start to play loose. That’s when we start losing high-scoring games. We don’t want that.”
Phoenix got some great goaltending from IIya Bryzgalov, who made 31 saves to keep the game within reach. With the final seconds ticking off the clock the Coyotes swarmed the Canuck net, forcing Luongo to make some crucial blocks.
“We were able to hang in there,” said coach Wayne Gretzky after his team dropped to 5-6-0. “It was a tough loss for our guys. Our guys battled hard.
“We just didn’t get enough out of our better players.”
The young Coyotes – the team averages 26 years of age and have seven players 23 or younger – were looking to build off a 4-2 win against Calgary on Tuesday night
After keeping the game close in the first period, Phoenix struggled in the second and didn’t muster a shot on net until near the 14-minute mark. In the third, the Coyotes took a string of penalties.
Phoenix captain Shane Doan said as good as Luongo was, the Coyotes didn’t make him work very hard.
“You think he’s unbelievable but at the same time we didn’t overly test him,” said Doan. “If you’re going to beat him, you’re going to have to get a lot better opportunities that we got. When he’s playing well, their team plays with a lot more confidence.”
Luongo improved his record to 8-5-0 and now has 42 career shutouts, leaving him fourth among active goaltenders. The last goal scored against the Canucks was at 18:52 of the second period in a 3-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday. Vancouver defeated Nashville 4-0 Tuesday.
Luongo had to be good early, stopping Garth Murray on a shorthanded breakaway in the first period. He also got lucky as the Coyotes bounced a couple shots off the post. In the third period Luongo stopped Viktor Tikhonov on a two-on-one rush.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” said Luongo. “The guys are doing a great job in front of me too. It helps me out a lot.
“When we can help each other out on the ice like that, we get good results.”
Bieksa made it 1-0 at 11:56 of the first period. He took a pretty pass from forward Alex Burrows and fired into a wide-open net after Bryzgalov had overextended himself.
“I didn’t really have to do a whole lot,” said Bieksa. “I jumped up into the play. I had an empty net. I’ll take those.”
It was Bieksa’s third goal of the season, one more than he scored all of last year when he missed 46 games with a lacerated calf muscle.
The Canucks missed a couple golden chances to score in the second.
First Taylor Pyatt stole a puck and fed it to Steve Bernier in behind the Phoenix defence, but the big forward fired the puck over top of the net. Later Bryzgalov made a great glove save off a shot from Mason Raymond who was left alone at the side of the net.
Notes: Kyle Turris, a New Westminster, B.C., native who Phoenix picked third overall in the 2007 draft, did not dress. …The Canucks re-assigned defenceman Lawrence Nycholat to the AHL Manitoba Moose on a conditioning assignment. …The Canucks went into the game tied for fifth in the NHL with a 3.38 goals-per-game average. …Members of the USL First Division-champion Vancouver Whitecaps were introduced during the first period.