The Vancouver Canucks called a 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Saturday their best game of the young the NHL season.
But that isn't saying much given the undermanned opposition, who were missing four regular forwards and managed just eight shots through two periods. It also isn't saying much given that Canucks have just three wins in seven games and remain closer to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings than the top.
"It was a grind-it-out style of game and we came out on top which is the important things," said Ryan Kesler, one of two Vancouver goal scorers.
Mikael Samuelsson scored the game-winning goal with about 16 minutes remaining in the third period, and just as a roughing penalty to Minnesota's James Sheppard had expired. Roberto Luongo turned away 17 shots, including 10 in the final period, which was filled with crease scrambles.
Niklas Backstrom made 37 saves and was clearly the game's first star. The Wild's lone goal came when a Mikko Koivu point shot deflected off Canucks forward Kyle Wellwood and past Luongo.
"Our goalie was great," Minnesota coach Todd Richards said. "This is the type of game you need from your goaltender when you're struggling to find a win, but we didn't generate nearly enough chances."
Vancouver head coach Alain Vigneault used four different line combinations and three new defensive pairings after a 5-3 loss to Calgary on Friday. He said the unit of Kesler, Mason Raymond and rookie Michael Grabner, a former first-round draft selection who was making his GM Place debut, was the most efficient.
Kesler scored early in the second to tie the game 1-1, banking a puck past Backstrom from a bad angle. "It was a garbage goal, but that's the type of game it was tonight," Kesler said.
Luongo, who was pulled after two periods and five goals allowed against the Flames, said it was difficult to remain engaged in the proceedings given the puny workload through 40 minutes. Minnesota didn't record its 10th shot until four minutes into the final stanza.
The Wild have now lost five straight games and have just one overtime win in seven games this year - all but one of them on the road. Minnesota opponents have registered points in every game this season, and the club continues to play without Martin Havlat, Petr Sykora, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Cal Clutterbuck, who are all out with injuries.
"I think it caught up with us," Richards said of the five-game road swing. "We haven't had any success on the road. Hopefully, going home will be better."