After Sunday’s game, the Vancouver Canucks finally get to go home. While many of them figure to get some much needed rest, Roberto Luongo(notes) and six teammates will be challenging for Olympic gold.
The Canucks end the first leg of their lengthy stretch of road games looking to win their third straight as they take on the Minnesota Wild.
The NHL will take a break from action for the next two weeks while some of the league’s best play for their home countries in Vancouver. For everyone but the seven Canucks who will be playing in the Games, the time off gives the team a break from its run of 14 consecutive games on the road while the Olympics have taken over GM Place.
The Canucks (37-21-2), battling Colorado for the Northwest Division lead, opened this stretch with a win - their seventh straight overall - but lost three of the next four. They have bounced back to win the last two, including a 4-3 victory over Columbus on Friday.
Sami Salo’s(notes) power-play goal tied the game 4:31 into the third period, and Mikael Samuelsson(notes) scored the winner with 12:04 to play on a deflected popup that went over Blue Jackets goaltender Steve Mason’s(notes) head. Backup Andrew Raycroft(notes) held off a late flurry by Columbus, which outshot the Canucks 19-9 in the final 20 minutes.
“We missed a few empty nets in the second, so we were probably due to get a break,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “We did get a break, and then Raycroft shut them down.”
Luongo, who will play for Team Canada in the Olympics, got the night off after shutting out Florida the previous day. Likely to be back in net Sunday, Luongo has not allowed more than three goals in 10 consecutive starts, winning eight.
That streak dates back to a 5-2 loss at Minnesota on Jan. 13, when he was pulled after allowing five goals on 19 shots. Luongo had won his previous two games against the Wild this season.
The Canucks gave up the first two goals in last month’s meeting as their four-game win streak in Minnesota ended, and bad starts continue to be a problem. They have allowed their opponent to score first in six of the last seven games, getting outscored 12-2 in the first period.
The Wild (29-27-4) have suffered regulation losses in their last two home games after going 8-0-1 in their previous nine. They are coming off a 3-2 defeat to Atlanta on Friday despite outshooting the Thrashers 38-24.
Andrew Brunette(notes) and Andrew Ebbett(notes) scored in the first period, but Niklas Backstrom(notes) gave up the game-winner 11:05 into the third. It was the third straight game decided by one goal for the Wild, who were coming off a 3-2 loss to Phoenix on Wednesday.
“I thought we played a lot harder and did things better than in the previous game, which is what we set out to do, but we came up one short,” coach Todd Richards said.
Earlier in the day, the Wild traded defenseman Kim Johnsson(notes) and the rights to 2009 first-round pick Nick Leddy to Chicago for defenseman Cam Barker(notes). Barker has four goals and 10 assists in 51 games this season.
“It’s not too often you get the opportunity to acquire a 23-year-old defenseman who is 6-foot-3, can shoot the puck and play on the power play,” general manager Chuck Fletcher told the Wild’s official Web site. “And he’s a young player that hasn’t even entered the prime of his career.”