VANCOUVER – Roberto Luongo may not be able to explain it, but he seems to have Minnesota’s number on home ice.
Luongo made 25 saves Tuesday night as the Vancouver Canucks defeated the Minnesota Wild 2-1.
The veteran goaltender saw his shutout streak against the Wild at Rogers Arena end at 228 minutes and 26 seconds but made several key stops down the stretch to help the Canucks win their sixth game in a row.
“Whether it’s a coincidence or what, I’ll take it,” said Luongo of his success against Minnesota. “They’re divisional games so they’re important. We have a pretty good streak against them.”
Luongo, who is sharing the crease this season with Cory Schneider, still has not lost a game in regulation this year (4-0-2) and lowered his goals-against average to 1.45, behind only Ottawa’s Craig Anderson.
“They’re making a lot of key saves for us when we’re down or in tight games,” said Vancouver’s Jannik Hansen.
Minnesota was stymied on their best chance to tie the game just past the five-minute mark of the third period. Zach Parise found himself alone in front and his quick shot was kicked out to Ryan Suter in the slot but the defenceman wrung his shot off the iron.
Luongo made two big saves in the final minute of play, first stopping Devin Setoguchi, then blocking the rebound. He made 10 stops in the final period.
“He walked in from the bench so it was tough to cover him but I was able to challenge him,” said Luongo of the save off Setoguchi. “He wasn’t able to get it up so I was able to get a pad on it.”
Hansen and Kevin Bieksa scored for Vancouver (8-2-2), which is now five points up on Minnesota in the Northwest Division.
Setoguchi replied for Minnesota (6-6-1), which saw its modest two-game win streak snapped. The Wild have not won in Vancouver since Jan. 31, 2009 (0-9-2).
Also, that was just the seventh goal the Wild have scored in the past six games.
“We got a find a way to score,” said Parise. “That’s too many games of just getting one, we got to generate offence and it’s not good enough right now.
Darcy Kuemper stopped 28 shots in his NHL debut. Kuemper was called up because Josh Harding was battling the effects of medication he takes in dealing with multiple sclerosis. Kuemper has a 1.79 GAA and 0.938 save percentage playing for the Houston Aeros, the Wild’s top AHL affiliate.
“It was a hard-fought, gritty game with two teams battling for every inch on the ice,” said Vancouver head coach Alain Vigneault. “We had opportunities…to make it 3-1. Their goaltender made some good saves and their players made some key defensive plays and took us right down to the wire.”
Bieksa opened the scoring for Vancouver at the tail end of a power play.
Kassian rushed past a defender along the right boards and centred to Bieksa, who beat Kuemper low with a one-timer at 11:33 of the first.
“I didn’t think the big man would find me but he’s got some soft hands on him and he did,” said Bieksa of Kassian’s feed.
Luongo made his first big stop about 13 minutes into the game during a Minnesota power play, kicking out his right pad to rob Charlie Coyle’s one-timer from the slot.
Mason Raymond and Keith Ballard combined to set up Hansen’s third of the year at 10:03 of the second. Raymond began the play by skating through three Minnesota defenders before feeding Ballard along the left boards. Ballard spotted Hansen at the right side of the net and the Danish right winger beat Kuemper glove side, off the crossbar and in.
“I took a little longer than I would have liked to get it off, but it’s such a good play that I have so much time and I can kind of dust the puck off more than I would normally,” said Hansen.
With that assist Raymond extended his point streak to four games and his line with Hansen and rookie Jordan Schroeder continued their success.
“They’re quick and obviously their skill level is very high,” said Vigneault. “They made some nice plays tonight and were strong on the puck. They combine the speed, the skill and a little bit of grit. They’re tough to handle and the goal they scored was a real nice goal.”
Setoguchi got the Wild on the board three minutes later on the power play with a highlight-reel finish. Mikael Granlund and Matt Cullen worked to dig the puck out of the corner, allowing Setoguchi to walk out front, drag the puck to his forehand and roof the puck past Luongo.
“Sometimes you’ve got to give a guy credit,” said Luongo of the Setoguchi goal. “I thought I had him all the way but he made a perfect shot.”
It was Setoguchi’s second goal in three games after going nine games without one to start the season.
That goal came on the third of just four shots in the period by the visitors.
The Wild carried the flow of the play in the third but came up empty handed.
“We played the period the way we needed to play it,” said Minnesota head coach Mike Yeo. “You can’t just open it up and all of a sudden next thing you know they get the next goal. We stuck with it, we got the chances we needed to get and we just didn’t finish. We did everything except finish.”
NOTES: Henrik Sedin entered the game one point shy of Markus Naslund’s Vancouver Canucks scoring record and remained stuck at 755. The Canucks’ captain also extended his goal-less drought to 12 games to begin the season.