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Canucks jump out early in dominating win over Sabres

The SportsXchange

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Vancouver Canucks got out to a quick start Thursday night, opening the scoring for the first time in five games.

The way there were playing, there was no way they were giving that lead up.

With a tone-setting 19 shots in the first period -- and eight shots within the first 1:49 -- the Canucks cruised to a 3-0 victory over the Buffalo Sabres at the First Niagara Center.

"We came out flying," said Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo, who recorded his first shutout of the season. "(Sabres goaltender Ryan) Miller really kept them in the game in the first period or else the game would've been over."

Chris Higgins, Brad Richardson and Ryan Stanton scored for the Canucks, who improved to 5-3. It was the second road victory in a row for Vancouver, which began a season-long seven-game road trip with a 3-2 win over Philadelphia on Tuesday.

"We're getting there," Vancouver coach John Tortorella said. "Everybody looks at records of teams and this and that, it's a dogfight every night. It doesn't matter who you're playing and for us to start a trip, a seven-game road trip with a couple wins, I think that's very important, especially losing a couple at home before we left."

The Canucks were the dominant team from the opening whistle, peppering Miller with shots in the game's first few minutes. Higgins put the Canucks on the board on Vancouver's 16th shot just at 14:53, ripping a one-timer past Miller from the slot. The puck fell directly to Higgins after a cross-ice pass was deflected by Sabres forward Cody McCormick.

"We wanted to come out strong and establish a good forecheck and throw some pucks at the net and we did just that," Luongo said. "It really gave us some momentum. We had a couple power plays and it really carried us through the rest of the game."

Vancouver increased its lead to 2-0 on its NHL-best third short-handed goal of the season. Defenseman Jasson Garrison's shot deflected off Sabres defenseman Mark Pysyk, and Richardson swatted the puck out of the air and past Miller at 11:05. It was Richardson's second short-handed goal this season and the seventh of his career.

Things continue to go from bad to worse for the Sabres, who fell to 1-7-1. Following Stanton's goal that made it 3-0 midway through the third period, there were loud "Fire Darcy" chants -- referring to Sabres general manager Darcy Regier -- echoing throughout the arena.

"We can't not start on time in this league, and we did," Sabres coach Ron Rolston said.

Miller, who did his best to keep his team in it with a strong performance between the pipes, declined to speak to reporters after the game. The Buffalo goalie had 31 saves.

"It's no fun," said Sabres winger Thomas Vanek. "Every guy in here trains all summer long to be successful, and to have the record that we have is disappointing. ... We knew we were going to have to be a team that had great goaltending, which we're getting. Offensively, we just can't generate much."

For all of Buffalo's struggles, it appeared to get back into the game at the start of the third before Vanek's goal was overturned via video replay. Vanek appeared to finish off a 3-on-2 rush with a blistering wrist shot, but the puck actually ricocheted off the crossbar and the left post before landing on the goal line.

"From my angle, I thought I caught the inside bar and then the post," Vanek said. "Obviously, I was wrong. Even at that point, Ryan gave us a chance. It would've been 2-1. By then overall they outplayed us."

Luongo made the most of his limited workload, stopping all 25 shots he faced for his 63rd career shutout.

"He played well," Tortorella said. "He made some big saves on a power play to keep it out, I don't think he was terribly busy but that's a hard game for him and he made some big saves at key times for us."

After an inconsistent start to the year, the Canucks appear to be settling into a groove by winning the first two games of their lengthy road trip. That trip continues Saturday, when the Canucks take on the Metropolitan Division leading Pittsburgh Penguins.

"All in all we just played a simple game," Tortorella said. "It was a straight ahead game, we talked about gaining territories and trying to forecheck and I thought we did a good job. ... Is it all good? No. We have things to learn, we still have things to work on. But I thought we played quick and simple tonight, and that's what we're trying to do."

NOTES: Leading up to Thursday night's game, the Sabres had not lost at home to the Canucks in more than 10 years. Vancouver's last road win in Buffalo came on Feb. 7, 2003. ... Buffalo C Zemgus Girgensons missed the game after being struck in the face with the puck on Tuesday, but Sabres coach Ron Rolston said Girgensons could return for Saturday's game against Colorado. ... Girgensons, D Jamie McBain and RW Patrick Kaleta (suspension) were scratched for the Sabres. ... D Yannick Weber, C Zac Dalpe and D Alexander Edler were scratched for the Canucks. ... Canucks coach John Tortorella served as an assistant head coach with the Sabres for six seasons (1989-90 to 1994-95). ... This was the 111th game all time between Buffalo and Vancouver.
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