PIC OF THE GAME
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo
didn't see a lot of shots Sunday night. Neither did Columbus' Steve Mason.
The similarities for two of the NHL's best puck stoppers ended there.
In addition to making Luongo's life easy by shutting down a struggling Columbus offense in the Vancouver zone, the Canucks made sure the Blue Jackets' sizzling rookie goalie had a tough time seeing any of their shots at the other end.
The result was power-play goals just 1:47 apart late in the first period and early in the second, and a 3-1 Vancouver victory.
opened the scoring on a 5-on-3 blast through Daniel Sedin
's screen with 5 seconds left in the first period, and Ryan Kesler
tipped in Mats Sundin's slap shot just before the second penalty expired early in the second.
"You can't stop what you can't see," Kesler said. "I don't think he even saw the first one, and I don't think any goalie in the league could have stopped that, and mine was a tip from in front, where he couldn't react to it."
Rick Nash, who was in the penalty box for both goals, pulled Columbus within one 6:18 into the third period. But Alex Burrows restored the two-goal cushion 5 1/2 minutes later, blasting a 3-on-1 shot over Mason's glove.
It was the only goal Mason, a 20-year-old rookie who posted his NHL-leading eighth shutout Thursday in Edmonton, got a clean look at.
"That was by design," Burrows said. "Mason is a good goalie, a big goalie and he's tough to get goals against, but we stuck with the process."
Luongo only faced nine shots through 40 minutes before the Blue Jackets added 11 in the third period. He stopped all but one as the Canucks won for the 10th time in 12 games to firm up their hold on fifth place in the tightly packed Western Conference, moving them four points ahead of the sixth-place Blue Jackets, who have lost three of four and lead ninth-place Nashville by two points.
"I saw a few in the third, but the first two periods, not much action," said Luongo, who has won 10 of his last 11 starts.
At the other end Mason finished with 27 saves for Columbus, which had points in seven straight games (6-0-1) before the recent drought, which coincides with scoring just three goals on this three-game road trip. Coach Ken Hitchcock put the blame clearly at the feet of his unproductive forwards.
On a night when Sundin and Demitra were quiet, Kesler picked his line up and carried it on his back.
When will the fairy dust run out? It still hasn't happened. Burrows is fast becoming Anson Carter the second.
The Canucks PK was perfect and the fourth line played an effective game - both because of Johnson.
"This whole road trip we really struggled with some of our forwards to get our competitive level necessary to be a good playoff team, that s the bottom line," Hitchcock said. "I really think out goaltender and our defense played well, we've got to get more from some people up front. We need better play from some of the guys up front. We're not getting a lot of production."
The Blue Jackets, in the hunt for the first playoff berth in the franchise's seven seasons, had won the first three meetings of the four-game season series with Vancouver, and five straight overall. But they were missing defenseman Rostislav Klesla and forwards Fredrik Modin and Jason Chimera, and lost veteran center Michael Peca to an undisclosed injury late in the first period.
Hitchcock would only say he would be re-evaluated Monday. The Blue Jackets could have used Peca s penalty killing experience shortly after he left.
Mason only needed 19 saves Thursday in Edmonton for his NHL-leading eighth shutout, but faced 14 shots in the first period alone Sunday. The last one - Salo's screened slap shot - beat him with 5 seconds left in the period.
"That's a cannon, but I don't think Sami scores if Daniel (Sedin) is not in front," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "Mason didn't see anything. As hard a shot as (Salo) has, part of beating these great quality goaltenders on the first shot is you have to have traffic in front."
By that point Mason had already stacked the pads on Pavol Demitra's breakaway, got a blocker on Demitra's shot in tight on an earlier power play, and stuffed Sundin's backhand from alone atop the crease. But Mason didn't have a chance when Kesler tipped a shot into traffic by him early in the second period.
"That was our main focus tonight and we executed well," Kesler said.
Nash ended Luongo s shutout bid 6:18 into the third period, knocking in his own rebound from a sharp angle with Luongo down after diving head first back across his crease when Nash's original wraparound caught him going the wrong way.
"Even when they scored we didn't panic, we stayed with our game plan and kept working and were physical," Burrows said. "We wanted to shut them down."
"I passed away too many shots and after the second Bernier told me to shoot the puck, don’t be shy. I happened to come down three on one and Danny made a good play. At first I wanted to give it back to him for a tap in or something like that, but the d-man didn’t really bite on me and I was able to walk in and get a shot off." - Alex Burrows
"I think our guys approached this as our last crack at this team. We hadn’t beaten them all year and our guys focused like a playoff game. We know how tight everything is and our game at both ends of the rink was solid all night long. I think we’d only given them two scoring chances after two periods. We haven’t done that all year." - Alain Vigneault
"I think our guys approached this as our last crack at this team. We hadn’t beaten them all year and our guys focused like a playoff game. We know how tight everything is and our game at both ends of the rink was solid all night long. I think we’d only given them two scoring chances after two periods. We haven’t done that all year." - Roberto Luongo
The Blue Jackets fell to 12-16-4 as the visiting team as they wrapped up a three-game road trip through Western Canada. The Canucks, who have two games left on a four-game home stand, have won five straight on home ice after losing the previous nine in a row. ... Canucks D Ossi Vaananen, claimed off waivers from Philadelphia Friday, joined the team for practice Saturday, but did not play Sunday. With D Laurence Nycholat close to returning from a groin injury, the Canucks could soon have nine NHL experienced defensemen on their roster.