Canucks top Blues 2-0, stay atop NHL standings

Published:

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -- Alex Burrows' early third-period goal gave Vancouver the lead, and the Canucks beat the St. Louis Blues 2-0 on Thursday night in a showdown for first place in the NHL.

Chris Higgins added an empty-net goal in the final minute for the Canucks (41-16-8), who with 90 points have a three-point lead over St. Louis (40-18-7) and Detroit in the Western Conference.

Vancouver's overall lead in the NHL is two points over the New York Rangers, who have played three fewer games.

Roberto Luongo registered his third shutout of the season, making 29 saves for the Canucks, who ended St. Louis' four-game winning streak, all on the road.

Burrows opened the scoring 4:17 into the third when he backhanded Dan Hamhuis' rebound off the end boards in off Elliott's shoulder. The puck came to Hamhuis after Kevin Bieksa fanned on a slap shot.

Forwards Zack Kassian and Sammy Pahlsson, and defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani played their first game in Vancouver after being acquired from Buffalo on Monday. Kassian and Pahlsson had played for the Canucks on Tuesday at Phoenix while Gragnani was a healthy scratch.

Kassian and Gragnani quickly made an impression. But the rest of the Canucks didn't.

The Blues outshot the Canucks 10-0 before Kassian registered the Canucks' first shot at 7:52 of the first period -- a slap shot from the wing on St. Louis goalie Brian Elliott. The crowd let out a loud roar of approval after Kassian got the puck out of the Vancouver zone, kept it in moments later at the blue line, and then unleashed a slap shot.

Gragnani had a chance on the rebound, but was foiled by Elliott. The defenseman, playing his first NHL game since Nov. 12, struggled at times and took a cross-checking penalty.

St. Louis came close to scoring on the ensuing power play, but Luongo got an elbow on Vladimir Sobotka's shot, and the puck landed on top of the net.

Kassian led all shooters with four shots.

NOTES: St. Louis' Ken Hitchcock is on pace for the ninth 100-point season of his 15-year NHL head coaching career. He also surpassed 100 points four times during his junior coaching days with the Kamloops Blazers. ... Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault pulled Luongo for a sixth attacker before a faceoff in the St. Louis end with under 2 seconds left in the second period. The Blues won the draw to erase any threat.