Cloutier, making his first start after missing two games because of a hip injury, only needed to stop 15 shots for his fifth shutout of the season in Vancouver’s 1-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night.
“We didn’t give them much,” Cloutier said. “I was definitely very happy with the way the team played in front of me.”
Matt Cooke scored midway through the first period for the Canucks, who ended a five-game winless skid and won for just the second time in eight games since forward Todd Bertuzzi was suspended for the rest of the season and playoffs for his blindside punch against Colorado’s Steve Moore.
The Canucks remained fifth in the Western Conference, two points behind Dallas in the race for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The teams will meet in Vancouver on Saturday.
“We don’t have an awful lot of wins to show for the last week or two, so anytime you get a win it definitely helps everyone in this dressing room,” Cloutier said.
Cristobal Huet made 26 saves for the Kings, who have lost five straight games and remain in 10th place in the Western Conference, three points behind Nashville for the final playoff spot.
“We’re not playing well enough to win and tonight was probably our weakest game in this five-game streak,” Kings coach Andy Murray said.
Cloutier wasn’t tested often as the Canucks kept the Kings from recording a shot for the first 10 minutes of the first two periods. Vancouver has been practicing how to shore up shoddy play in its end.
“We had two full days working on defensive coverage and sometimes it’s just little things, little reminders to everyone and it showed,” Cloutier said. “That L.A. team is fighting for their lives and we pretty well kept them to a minimum.”
Cloutier had to be sharp when the Kings recorded the first six shots of the third. He stopped Anson Carter on a partial breakaway five minutes into the final period, and got a little help when former Canucks player Trent Klatt rang a wrist shot off the crossbar midway through the second.
Luc Robitaille had a great chance to tie it with the goaltender pulled in the final minute, but his shot from the slot bounced off the skate of Canucks center Artem Chubarov at the top of the crease, and Vancouver cleared the zone.
“Trent had a great chance, Anson Carter had a great chance, and with 40 seconds left the top scoring left winger in the history of hockey had a great chance from the slot,” Murray said. “Those are pretty good opportunities, and give Cloutier credit tonight, he was real solid in net.”
Naslund started the play by spinning away from a check in the high slot and feeding Marek Malik, cutting to the goal. Malik lost the puck while making a move to his backhand, but with Huet down, Cooke was waiting at the far side of the crease to slam his ninth goal into an unguarded net.
“The puck was lying there with an empty net. I didn’t have to do much,” Cooke said. “When you’re playing with two guys like that, obviously it’s fun.”
Huet kept it close with a handful of solid saves, including a spectacular sliding pad stop off Geoff Sanderson on a two-on-one break midway through thethird.
The Kings, playing the first game of a four-game trip, have six games remaining. Each is against teams currently holding a playoff spot in the Western Conference. … The Canucks won the season series 3-0-1. … Vancouver was 0-for-2 on the power play and has just three goals in 40 chances. … The Kings were 0-for-2 with the man advantage. The shutout was the 15th ofCloutier’s career.