While Markus Naslund got his 12th goal of the season, his teammates suddenly found their defensive game in a 1-0 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. “It was huge,” Canuck netminder Roberto Luongo, who made 24 saves, said of the checking in front of him after Vancouver had given up 10 goals in losing its previous two starts. “We talked about it before the game and we said these are they types of games we have to win … and when we got the lead I think we played really well defensively.
“Nobody was satisfied after the last couple of games and we really want to play some sound hockey to be successful against anybody.”
The Blue Jackets have scored only 50 goals while being blanked six times in 23 games this season while the Canucks’ pop-gun offence has produced only 56 goals in 24 starts.
Naslund scored in the second period when he took Henrik Sedin’s pass at the Blue Jackets blue line, beat two defenders, then goalie Pascal Leclaire on the backhand for his fourth goal in six games.
Luongo was solid, especially after the Canucks took the lead, and earned his second shutout in a Vancouver uniform and the 29th of his career.
And Vancouver needed a big effort from the highly touted goalie obtained during the off-season in the blockbuster trade that sent Todd Bertuzzi to the Florida Panthers.
The goal-starved Canucks have scored two or fewer goals in 12 of their last 14 games.
“That’s the type of hockey being played right now in the Western Conference,” Luongo, who earns US$6.75 million, said of the tight games Vancouver has been playing for most of the season.
“Those are the type of games you’re going to be involved in and you’ve got to win.”
Luongo preserved the lead in the second and third periods and the Canucks killed off an eighth power play with Leclaire on the bench for a sixth attacker in the final minute.
The closest Columbus came was when Luongo swiped a rolling the puck shot by Sergei Fedorov off goal line with his blocker hand.
The play was scrutinized during a lengthy video review but no goal was awarded.
Later Luongo was quick with the glove to snare a labelled shot by Alexander Svitov.
Naslund’s goal improved the Canucks to 12-12-1 and halted a two-game losing streak.
He didn’t think it would stand up for the victory but Columbus lost for the ninth time in 10 starts to fall to 6-15-2 and 1-2-0 under new coach Ken Hitchcock.
“I didn’t really think much about it,” Naslund said of his goal. “It was good to get one just to get things going and it ended up being the winner.
“Hank threw it to me and I was able to cut between the (defencemen).”
Leclaire, who had a solid 32-save outing but looked behind him a couple of times for pucks that might have gone in the net, said Naslund made a good deke on the play.
“He came out on the breakaway and made a good move and came back on me to put it in. It was a nice goal by a great goal scorer.”
Leclaire also admired Luongo’s effort.
“We got into the game later and Roberto played well for them tonight and made a couple of good stops in the second (period) and then he just shut the door.”
Anson Carter, who led Vancouver with 33 goals last season but signed as a free agent with Columbus, said the Blue Jackets are improving since Hitchcock took over from the fired Gerard Gallant.
“Our intensity isn’t up for a full 60 minutes but we’re not playing as open or as spread out as before,” Carter said. “Even though we didn’t get the two points, we’re still showing a lot of spine.”
NOTES: Slotback Geroy Simon, the Grey Cup and several B.C. Lions players were introduced before the game … Carter was booed practically every time he touched the puck … it was the first of five consecutive road games for the Blue Jackets who visit Calgary on Friday and Edmonton on Saturday … Vancouver is also at home for seven of its next eight games … Marc Chouinard and Tommi Santala were Vancouver’s healthy scratches.