Chris Higgins #20 of the Vancouver Canucks hits the metal behind Cory Schneider #35 of the New Jersey Devils.
Photograph by: Bruce Bennett, Getty Images
NEWARK, N.J. — For those keeping track at home, that’s four wins and four forwards lost to injury.
It’s a good thing this road trip is almost over because the Vancouver Canucks are going to run out of bodies.
They lost two more wingers to injury Thursday night, but it didn’t matter. The Canucks won anyway, registering a gritty 3-2 shootout victory over the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center.
It wasn’t pretty.
“I don’t think I would have paid for a minute of that game, but it’s nice we came away with the two points,” said head coach John Tortorella.
The Canucks have somehow managed an impressive 4-1-1 record in the first six games of their season-long seven-game trip that mercifully concludes Friday night in St. Louis.
They began the trip nearly two weeks ago without one of their leading scorers in Alex Burrows, and along the way have lost four other forwards: Jordan Schroeder and Jannik Hansen went down earlier and on Thursday Dale Weise and David Booth left with first-period “lower-body” injuries.
The Canucks finished the game with just nine forwards. Tortorella had an excuse not to use his fourth line Thursday night. He didn’t have one.
“It is one of those games on the road where you are grinding and you are trying to get a point and we got two tonight,” said Canuck captain Henrik Sedin, who assisted on both Vancouver goals. “So it feels great.”
It didn’t feel so great during the game, as Tortorella rode his top forwards even harder than he has most of this season.
Henrik, Daniel Sedin and Ryan Kesler all logged more than 25 minutes. Things were so bad that the forgotten Tom Sestito actually played 8:30.
“That is why you work in the summer, I guess,” Henrik said. “A game like this you have to try to keep your shifts a little bit shorter and simplify things. It’s fun as well. It feels like you are back playing pee-wee again. Every second shift, so it’s fun.”
Fun may be stretching it. Kesler acknowledged that it was a difficult game to finish.
“It’s tough when the bench gets short like that and you are playing a lot,” he said. “But the good thing is it keeps you in the game.”
Their goaltender helped keep them in the game. After a tough start — New Jersey scored on its first shot — Roberto Luongo got better as the game went on. He was brilliant in the third period when he stopped all 17 shots he faced.
“I have seen him play better, but this year for us, yes that was probably his best period,” Tortorella said of Luongo. “He still is trying to get his game where he wants it. He was outstanding tonight, and certainly gave us the chance to get the point and also earn the second one.”
Luongo knew his teammates were gassed and did his best to try to slow the game down when he had the chance.
“It wasn’t easy,” Luongo said. “Two guys go down with injuries, so I was trying to freeze everything so guys can get breathers and all that kind of stuff. We dug deep, it wasn’t an easy game to be part of for those guys having a short bench like that, so everybody had to chip in.”
Mike Santorelli did his part in the shootout, scoring the only goal. Luongo stopped Patrik Elias to seal the win.
Santorelli has converted on 50 per cent of his shootout attempts in his career, but dismissed a suggestion that he makes it look easy.
“Trust me, it’s not easy,” he said. “I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t nervous going down there. I just try to think of a move and stick with it. I don’t want to stray from it. It’s lucky it went in.”
Now the Canucks must attempt to regroup and summon up the energy to play a well-rested Blues team that has not played a game since last Friday. The Canucks will be playing their fifth game in seven nights.
“We are going to have to play a smart game and we’re going to have to muster up energy,” Kesler said. “We are professionals and we have to do that.”
Vancouver has summoned forwards Darren Archibald and Pascal Pelletier from their AHL farm team in Utica for Friday night’s game. Archibald has not played an NHL game. Pelletier has 13 NHL games on his resume with Chicago and Boston.
Tortorella would not go into any detail about the injuries suffered by Booth and Weise. Hansen, who suffered an apparent shoulder injury in Tuesday night’s game against the New York Islanders, has been sent back to Vancouver and placed on the long term injured list. That means he’s gone at least 10 games. Schroeder, who suffered an ankle injury Saturday in Pittsburgh, is also on the LTIR.
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