Wild thrashes Canucks with 45-shot attack, 5-1
By Dave Campbell
AP Sports Writer
ST. PAUL -- Matt Cullen had two goals and an assist for Minnesota, and the Wild let their sputtering offense loose by dominating the Vancouver Canucks from start to finish with 45 shots on net in a 5-1 victory Thursday night.
Pierre-Marc Bouchard scored and had two assists and Guillaume Latendresse and Marco Scandella also had goals for the Wild, who won their third straight game, all with backup Josh Harding in goal.
After missing last season recovering from two torn ligaments in his knee, Harding is 3-0-1 -- with 98 saves over his last three games on 100 shots. He made 24 saves against the Canucks.
Defenseman Dan Hamhuis gave Vancouver the game's first goal just 2:20 in after a behind-the-net pass by Daniel Sedin to Alex Burrows took a pinball-like bounce toward the stick of Hamhuis, who slapped the puck in for the early lead.
But Harding wasn't fazed, and the Wild's young blue-liners played another relentless game in front of him.
Their effort not only shut down the Sedin twins and struggling star Ryan Kesler, but it helped fuel a frenetic attack by the forwards on their way to a franchise record for most shots on goal in a home game.
Cory Schneider, making his fourth start of the season, did his best to keep the Canucks competitive, twice denying Cullen with difficult saves in the first period. But he ran out of steam and was helpless by the middle of the game.
With Vancouver's defense continually breaking down without stalwart Sami Salo, who was scratched with a sore groin muscle, the Wild scored three times in the second period and peppered Schneider with 22 shots -- more than they managed the entire game in three previous contests this season.
The only team in the NHL averaging fewer than two goals per game entering the night, the Wild have been encouraged by coach Mike Yeo to shoot more -- that putting pucks on the net is not a selfish act.
Latendresse used some slick stick work to score early in the middle frame, going left, right, left, then right again to shoot and score from the edge of the circle when the puck bounced off Schneider's mask and in the net.
Then, 21 seconds later, Bouchard banged in his first goal of the season to give the Wild the lead.
Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault called timeout, and the pace slowed a little, but Scandella let a slap shot rip from behind the circle that slipped through with 2:55 left in the period.
The Canucks couldn't get any breaks by that point. Kesler, who has only one goal since returning from hip surgery six games into the season, sent a shot from inside the circle that somehow rolled along the goal line without going in before Harding whirled around and whisked it out of trouble. The replay review confirmed it wasn't a goal. Kesler had 41 goals last season.
Cullen put the punctuation on the final frame, scoring when he faked a shot on Andrew Alberts and then sent a tight-angle shot over Schneider's shoulder. He got his team-leading sixth goal of the season later in the period, helping the Wild improve to 6-3-3. The Canucks fell to 6-6-1.
The Canucks went 0 for 5 on the power play, and the Wild have killed 12 straight penalties. The last time they scored three or more goals was Oct. 11, the third game of the season.
NOTES: Wild D Clayton Stoner missed his third straight game due to a hand injury. ... The Wild beat the Canucks for the first time in five meetings. ... Schneider started for Roberto Luongo, who's been pulled early from four of his previous five starts at Xcel Energy Center. He's 3-9-2 here in his career, and in his last three games in Minnesota he posted a 7.00 goals-against average.