Raycroft shines in Luongo's absence
Canucks backup stops 30 shots in shootout win over Kings
Facing one of the NHL's hotter teams and the league's leading scorer, the odds were heavily stacked against Andrew Raycroft in his first start since the pre-season.
But instead of caving under the pressure of filling in for injured Vancouver Canucks starting goalie Roberto Luongo, Raycroft made like the Canadian Olympic favourite.
Raycroft stopped 30 shots in regulation and overtime before denying Michal Handzus and Ryan Smyth in the shootout to lead Vancouver to a 2-1 victory over the hometown Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night.
Jack Johnson beat Raycroft low blocker-side in the shootout, but Ryan Kesler and Michael Samuelsson got the best of Jonathan Quick at the other end of the ice for a happy ending to Canada Night at the Staples Center.
Kings centre Anze Kopitar entered Thursday's action with an NHL-leading 21 points, but was held off the scoresheet for only the third time in 14 games this season as the Canucks neutralized his line and slowed the game down, firing just 15 shots at the Kings net.
Samuelsson faced long odds entering the shootout, considering he had failed to bury all three of his previous attempts.
But the former Detroit Red Wings right-winger looked every bit the prolific scorer he has been in his first season with the Canucks. Samuelsson skated towards Quick, faked a shot, went to his backhand and lifted the puck over the right pad of the Kings netminder.
4th win in 5 starts
Vancouver improved to 7-6-0 on the season with its fourth win in five starts, while the 8-5-1 Kings have earned points in six straight games despite consecutive 2-1 shootout losses.
"It's the same feeling after two games — bad feeling," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "It's a useless part of the game, the shootout. I hate it, but the fans love it. For that reason I like it, because the fans are excited, they're standing waiting for the next shooter. It is good for the game, but boy, do I hate it."
In the first period, Samuelsson wired a shot from the hash marks by Quick for his sixth goal in 13 games to tie Henrik Sedin for the team lead and answer Scott Parse's first-ever NHL goal.
Raycroft took over from there, stopping all 19 shots he faced in the second and third periods as well as OT. He has allowed only two regulation goals in 117 minutes this season over three appearances.
One of his better stops on Thursday came off an Alexander Frolov, who redirected a Dustin Brown pass from in close with 7:39 left in regulation.
In his previous three starts against L.A., Raycroft was winless with a 6.86 goals-against average.
'Greasy road win'
The Kings outshot Vancouver 31-15 and dominated puck possession for long stretches, but Raycroft kept it even until the shootout.
"It was a nice, greasy road win," Raycroft said. "I'll take them all year. We did a great job killing penalties and keeping their top line off the scoresheet.
"We knew they played last night and it was a tough road game for them, so we wanted to just make it hard for them all night."
Raycroft could be in net for at least a week after Luongo suffered a hairline fracture in one of his ribs in last Saturday's 3-1 win over Toronto.
"I knew what I signed up for, and I knew what I was getting into," said Raycroft, who signed with the Canucks as a free agent after posting a 3.14 GAA in 31 games with Colorado last season. "But if you work hard every day and try to stop every puck in practice, the game seems at a slower pace, just because guys don't have as much time and room and space."
He was one of six Canucks regulars on the sidelines to start Thursday's game. Centre Alexandre Bolduc was added to the list in the second period when he exited with a left arm/shoulder injury. After the game, he was seen wearing a sling.
Vancouver wraps up a two-game road trip Friday in Anaheim against the 3-6-1 Ducks in a 7 p.m. PT start.