VANCOUVER – Roberto Luongo celebrated his 700th NHL game with a sweet 3-0 shutout of the Minnesota Wild, but his next start could revive some sour memories.
That could come Saturday in Boston when the Canucks begin a four-game road trip against the Bruins who bullied Vancouver in a seven-game Stanley Cup final last spring.
“We’re going to enjoy the win and we’ll focus on Boston tomorrow,” Luongo said Wednesday after his 28-save effort earned him a second shutout this season—both against the Wild—and the 57th of his career.
Coach Alain Vigneault hasn’t said whether Luongo or backup Cory Schneider, a Massachusetts native, will start against the Bruins.
“I wasn’t playing to get the next start,” said Luongo who was shelled 8-1 and pulled at 4-0 in Games 3 and 4 in Boston last June.
Schneider mopped up again when Luongo got the hook trailing 3-0 in Game 6, also in Boston. Luongo lost the deciding game 4-0 and a downtown riot ensued in Vancouver.
“Tonight’s game was more important than Saturday’s game … division rival and they’re right behind us in the standings,” Luongo said. “That was my focus.”
The Canuck netminder, who made 33 saves Dec. 19 in a 4-0 win over Minnesota, wasn’t severely tested but was good when he had to be.
The Canucks got goals from first-liners Daniel Sedin and Alex Burrows while Manny Malhotra fired into an empty net in the final minute.
Vancouver (25-13-3) has 53 points, one more than Western Conference rival Chicago and the New York Rangers atop the East.
The Canucks, winners of seven of their last 10 starts, could have a short stay in the NHL penthouse because other leading clubs have games in hand.
The Wild (21-14-6), who led the Northwest before a rash of injuries in December, lost for the 10th time in 11 games and are five points behind Vancouver in that division. They’ve now lost 10 straight to the Canucks at Rogers Arena.
“Eventually this is going to have to stop,” said Wild goalie Josh Harding who stopped 32 shots. “We have to start winning some hockey games.”
Luongo’s night was made easier when he was staked to a 2-0 lead with first-period goals three minutes 42 seconds apart.
“We tried to make those guys play out of their comfort zone,” said the 32-year-old netminder who’s in the second season of an 11-year contract.
“Whatever chances they had I was able to challenge and be confident that the boys would take care (of rebounds) back there.”
Sedin got his fifth goal in six games with Burrows screening Harding. He then drove hard to the net to finish a three-way passing play with the Sedin twins.
“He’s one of the top goalies and he showed it again tonight,” Burrows said of Luongo. “He made some key saves in the second (period) on a couple of breakdowns.”
After getting the handle of his stick on Pierre-Marc Bouchard’s blast, he stood his ground on Devin Setoguchi on an odd-man rush and got a glove on a Setoguchi shot with four minutes remaining.
“He definitely made some nice saves,” Setoguchi said after the Wild failed to convert four power plays.
“He was joking with me out there. But you have to bury some of those chances. It’s one of those things where the more frustrated you get the worse it gets.”
Coach Mike Yeo agreed the frustration showed when his win-starved club couldn’t bury its chances.
“That’s somewhat of a product of how things have gone for us lately,” Yeo said.
“You could certainly pick up on some frustration on the bench. We’re going to have to fight through this.”
Heading into Boston, the Canucks hit the halfway mark of their schedule seven points shy of the 60 they had at the same point last season when they had the league’s best overall record.
“We’ve got the same feeling in the room as we had last year,” said Sedin who scored his team-leading 18th goal of the season.
“We’re a confident group. We know we’re going to be in most of our games if we play the right way.
“That’s a good feeling to have.”
Notes: The Canucks iced a Minnesota defence tandem of Keith Ballard and Andrew Alberts. … Setoguchi and Casey Wellman came off the Wild’s injured reserve list after missing 12 and nine games, respectively. … The Wild play nine of their next 12 games on the road but won seven straight away from home earlier this season … Both winger David Booth (knee) and defenceman Aaron Rome (thumb) have recovered sufficiently from their injuries to accompany the Canucks on their four-game road swing, which begins Saturday in Boston. … Minnesota plays Saturday in Calgary.