VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Roberto Luongo made 24 saves to backstop a 3-0 Vancouver Canucks win on Wednesday night at Rogers Arena against the injury-depleted Colorado Avalanche.
Defenseman Jason Garrison scored his first goal as a Canuck, fourth-line center Maxim Lapierre added his first of the season and Zack Kassian rounded out the scoring with his fifth on a power play as Vancouver moved above .500 for the first time this season (3-2-2).
Semyon Varlamov finished with 20 saves in net for the Avalanche, who drop to 2-4-0 overall.
Luongo got an early break when Jan Hejda’s point shot trickled through him and towards the goal line in the opening minute. As Luongo spun back to cover it, the puck hit the knob on the end of his stick and straight into the crease, but Colorado forward Jamie McGinn fired it right into the back of the sprawled goaltender.
Luongo, who expected to be traded before the season started after Schneider took over the starting job in last season’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, preserved his 61st career shutout – second only to New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur on the active list and 16th all-time – with a breakaway save on Matt Duchene shorthanded early in the third period and stopped John Mitchell alone in the slot with 1:06 left to play.
Garrison, who signed a six-year, $27.6-million free agent contract last summer to play in his hometown, opened the scoring on Vancouver’s first shot 7:34 into the period. After scoring 16 goals in Florida last season, Garrison got his first for the Canucks after walking into a loose puck at the blue line and blasting it past Varlamov.
Lapierre doubled the lead with 4:48 left in the second period, scoring on a 2-on-1 chance.
Colorado had a great opportunity to get back in the game against a Canucks team that has already blown three two-goal leads this season. The Avalanche had a 5-on-3 power play for 85 seconds in the third, but they were unable to get any pucks past Luongo.
Injuries to top players haven’t helped. Captain Gabriel Landeskog (head/leg) missed a second game after taking a big hit in San Jose last Saturday and forward Steve Downie is out for the season with a knee injury.
The Canucks have also been without a couple of key second-line forwards in Ryan Kesler (shoulder and wrist surgeries) and David Booth (groin), but Kassian has made the most of their absence.
Moved up to the top line with Daniel and Henrik Sedin so their usual wing Alexandre Burrows can center the second line, Kassian has scored in five of six games since – one more than he managed in 44 career NHL games with Vancouver and Buffalo before this season.
The latest came courtesy of a nice cross-ice feed from Dan Hamhuis, who cut in from the left point and spotted Kassian alone atop the crease to the right of Varlamov for an easy tap-in goal in the third period.