VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) - The New York Rangers have seen enough of Roberto Luongo over the years to know that the key to beating him is to get in his face and prevent him from seeing the puck.
Not that it helped them any Thursday night as the Canucks blanked the Rangers 3-0 backed by Luongo’s sixth shutout of the season, a 28-save gem, for their first win of 2008.
“I’ve been feeling well, the guys have been playing great in front of me and we’re playing especially great at home in front of our fans,” said Luongo, who is now one shutout away from tying his single-season career high of seven he set back in 2003-04 as a member of the Florida Panthers. “It’s just something where right now we have confidence at home and things are going our way.”
Ryan Kesler, Daniel Sedin and Jason Jaffray all scored to help Vancouver extend their home unbeaten streak to 13 games, improving their overall record on home ice to 12-6-2.
Despite collecting the two points, the Canucks were not pleased with their effort in this game as they were outshot 28-19 overall, and outplayed by the Rangers for most of the night.
“It was a poor performance from our side but we’ll take the win,” said captain Markus Naslund. “We’ll regroup and hopefully play better next game.
“We gave them too much room to makes plays. Their defencemen are big and they’re strong when they have the puck, but if you can get in there and fore check them and hit them, I think they’ll turn pucks over. But we didn’t do a good job of that.”
Ryan Kesler gave Vancouver its lead early in the second period on a goal that Rangers netminder Steve Valiquette, getting a rare start in place of Henrik Lundqvist, would probably like back.
Kesler's clearing pass from the corner of the rink went off his right foot and into the net.
The goal was the 10th of the season for Kesler, who drew the assignment of keeping the Rangers' top line of Scott Gomez, Jaromir Jagr and Martin Straka in check.
Opened the scoring 1:51 into the second period.
Led all Canucks with 25:04 TOI and helped set up Jason Jaffray’s goal.
Gomez and Jagr came into the game as two of the hottest players in the NHL. Gomez was riding a 13-game point streak while Jagr had had at least one point in his last eight games.
Both of those streaks came to a halt thanks to Kesler and linemates Alex Burrows and Byron Ritchie.
The Rangers' best chance to pull even came midway through the second period when Kesler got a double minor for high-sticking New York defenseman Dan Girardi. Kesler clipped Girardi under the left eye as he tried to jump past him on a one-on-one.
The Rangers managed to get a couple of shots on Luongo on the ensuing power play but only one scoring opportunity of any quality.
Daniel Sedin made it a 2-0 game with three minutes to play, registering his 19th goal of the season and extending his goal scoring streak to four games. Jason Jaffray's second goal of the season finished the scoring.
Jaffray was pleased he was able to contribute offensively, but he credited the win to Luongo’s steady play between the pipes.
“He’s unbelievable,” said Jaffray. “I think of myself as a goal scorer but he kind of takes the confidence right out of your game shooting on him in practice everyday; he’s that good. You hear about it on TV and you hear the interviews about the players saying how good of a player he is and how good of a goaltender he is, but you don’t really believe it until you’re shooting on him. He held us in that game for two periods tonight and forced the Rangers to open up their game a little bit and we powered a couple of late ones.”