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Shane O'Brien, left, fights with Erik Reitz in a 3-2 Canucks win. ((Jim Mone/Associated Press))

Vancouver Canucks fans witnessed a rarity Thursday night: Roberto Luongo in a ballcap and Curtis Sanford between the pipes.

Sanford posted 28 saves in his first start in more than a month and Daniel Sedin scored the decisive goal with 8:19 remaining as the Canucks prevailed 3-2 at Minnesota.

Sanford withstood a late flurry from the Wild to earn the win — his first since Dec. 12, 2007 — in just his second start of the season. 

"This was a start I knew I was getting for a week, so it gave me time to prepare," Sanford said. "I just wanted to come out … and have a strong game."

Roberto Luongo, who had made 14 straight starts, was rested following a 39-save performance in Wednesday's 6-3 triumph over the New York Rangers.

"This team has a lot of passion and a lot of character [and] tonight our character showed," Canucks defenceman Willie Mitchell said. "I'm happy for the team, happy for Curtis."

Pavol Demitra had one goal and one assist and Steve Bernier scored the other goal as the Canucks (11-6-2) chalked up their third win in four games and eighth in their last 11 games (8-1-2).

"I like to play against old teams and prove they made a mistake," Demitra, who spent the past two seasons with the Wild.

"You want to play your best game and show what kind of player I am."

Henrik Sedin contributed two assists flanked by Demitra and twin brother, Daniel. 

"They're coming along," Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault said. "They're passing a lot.

"I would like to see them shoot a little bit more. But then, you see how they score the third goal and you just say, 'Those are skilled players and they have to work itself out.'"

Mikko Koivu scored his fourth and fifth goals of the season and Niklas Backstrom made 27 saves for the Wild (11-4-1).

Minnesota fell to 5-2-1 at the Xcel Energy Center.

"These are the points you need," Wild defenceman Nick Schultz said. "You have got to win at home if you want to get into the playoffs."

O'Brien battles with Reitz

Vancouver was outshot 8-7 in a scoreless, at times bland, first period highlighted by a bout between Shane O'Brien and rookie defenceman Erik Reitz at 12:04.

Reitz levelled Kyle Wellwood with a cross-check near the benches and Taylor Pyatt promptly challenged him, but O'Brien interjected on behalf of both Canucks.

Koivu broke the deadlock 7:16 into the second period on a slapshot from the circle that slipped under Sanford's left armpit.

"It armpitted me," Sanford said. "It is a shot you stop nine out of 10 times."

Bernier tied it 1-1 at the 12-minute mark, chipping in a loose puck for his fifth after Reitz blocked Mitchell's point shot with a skate. 

Minnesota regained the lead in 2½ minutes as Koivu beat Sanford to the stick side on a short-handed breakaway.

"I kind of lost my balance there and got it back together and just tried to skate up as hard as I could," Koivu said.

But Demitra tied it 2-2 with 3:50 left, receiving credit for his fifth goal when he flicked the puck toward the net from the corner and it caromed in off Reitz's stick and Backstrom. 

"You just put something on net hoping it will go in," Demitra said. "We got lucky."

Minnesota had won five of the previous seven meetings with the Canucks, who blanked the Wild 2-0 on Nov. 8.

With files from the Canadian Press