Morrison scores shorthanded goal to lead Canucks to 4-1 win over Detroit

The Canucks are also letting other teams know they are going to be tough to beat once the playoffs start.

Brendan Morrison scored a shorthanded goal late in the second period as the Canucks beat the Detroit Red Wings 4-1 Saturday night to maintain their slim hold on top spot in the tight Northwest Division.

Vancouver managed to beat one of the best teams in the league despite going 0-9 on a power play that coughed and wheezed like an old car headed to the junk yard.

“It’s frustrating when you don’t score on the power play,” said Morrison. “We did a good job of not letting it affect us too much.

“We stayed in the game. I thought we worked hard the whole night and we worked smart. We didn’t turn may pucks over.”

To be fair, Brian Smolinski scored Vancouver’s first goal of the game just one second after Detroit’s Tomas Holmstrom stepped out of the penalty box.

Morrison got the glory but grinding forward Matt Cooke did most of the work on the goal that put Vancouver ahead 3-1 at 17:10 of the second.

With Jeff Cowan off for goaltender interference, Cooke stole the puck near centre ice. He broke in on goal, then slid a backhand pass to Morrison, who beat Dominik Hasek with a shot to the stick side.

“Cookie jumped up and made a nice play,” said Morrison, who scored his 19th of the season. “I just tried to get a quick shot away.”

The Canucks outshot Detroit 39-33. It was the most shots the Red Wings have given up this season. Vancouver also managed to kill seven of Detroit’s power plays.

“It was huge,” Canuck goaltender Roberto Luongo said about the win. “They came in here with the best record in the NHL.

“It was a good statement game for us that we match up against anybody in the league.”

Hasek said at times he felt like a pork chop thrown to a pack of dogs.

“They were like beasts around the net,” said the veteran goaltender, who faced 33 shots in the first 40 minutes. “I don’t remember when I faced 30 shots after two periods.

“It was one of the games I was the most busy this season.”

Defenceman Chris Chelios said Detroit’s wings were clipped by stupid penalties, especially in the first period.

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“Taking all the penalties that we did, we never really recovered after that,” he said.

“Give credit where it’s deserved. They played us on our heels and forced us to take the penalties. You can’t expect to win too many games like that.”

Defenceman Lukas Krajicek notched the winning goal in the second period while Trevor Linden scored into an empty net as Vancouver improved its record to 43-23-6 for 92 points.

The Canucks remain first in the Northwest Division, one point ahead of Minnesota who beat Calgary 4-2. That gives Vancouver the third seed in the Western Conference.

Pavel Datsyuk, on the power play, scored for Detroit whose record is 45-18-9 for 99 points.

The Red Wings’ loss, combined with Nashville’s 3-2 win over Dallas, moved the Predators into first place in the Central Division and first overall in the Western Conference with 100 points.

Detroit drops to the fourth seed in the conference.

Todd Bertuzzi, who was dealt to Detroit from Florida at the trade deadline, didn’t make the trip. It’s the second time this season the former Canuck, who is recovering from back surgery, missed a chance to play against his old teammates.

The Canucks are now 7-0-1 at home in their last eight games and 26-5-5 since Boxing Day. They keep on winning despite a power play that has managed just two goals in 37 chances over the last eight games.

At one point Saturday, Canuck coach Alain Vigneault took captain Markus Naslund off the power play.

“He wasn’t playing well, it’s as simple as that,” said Vigneault.

“I just go with the guys that are playing their best. He wasn’t one of them.”

Vigneault said he saw some improvement in the power play.

“We got some good shots, good chance in front of the net,” he said.

“Right now things aren’t clicking the way we want but I feel it coming along.”

Canuck defenceman Sami Salo left the game in the second period with a groin injury.

Vigneault said the injury as not serious.

NOTES: Defenceman Willie Mitchell missed his second consecutive game with a groin injury. … …There were chants of “Gordie, Gordie” when Gordie Howe, who was attending the game, was introduced to the crowd. . . . The Canucks franchise record for wins in a year is 46 set in 1992-93.