Lukowich boosts Canucks as Sabres end 7-game trip with 4 straight losses

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Despite being fairly new to
the Canucks, defenseman Brad Lukowich knows what to do when twins
Daniel and Henrik Sedin get the puck in the offensive end.

"Keep your stick on the ice and expect the unexpected,"
Lukowich said.

That's exactly what they delivered 5:21 into the third period of
Vancouver's 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night.

Daniel Sedin took a pass from his brother and cut into the slot,
drawing both the defense and goalie Ryan Miller with him before a
blind between-the-legs drop pass to a pinching Lukowich.

Lukowich, who was in the American Hockey League until recently
because of the Canucks' salary cap issues and defensive depth to
start the season, quickly snapped it past the glove of Miller for
his first goal since Nov. 5, 2007.

"I kind of remembered a goal about a week ago where they did
the same thing, so I just put my stick down and screamed like crazy
and he basically laid it out for me," Lukowich said. "Just lean
on it and aim for the back of the net."

Mikael Samuelsson and Henrik Sedin also scored, and Daniel Sedin
had two assists for the Canucks, who have won five straight games
for the first time since March 2007.

Roberto Luongo made 30 saves as Vancouver improved to 12-2-2
over its past 16 games to move into a tie with Colorado atop the
Northwest Division.

The Canucks have won two straight with three of their top four
defensemen injured, relying on Lukowich, Aaron Rome, who has been a
healthy scratch 22 times this season, and Nolan Baumgartner, who
hadn't played in the NHL for three seasons before Saturday, for key

Few expected them to also score key goals.

"I mean, Lukowich going up in the play there?" Canucks coach
Alain Vigneault said. "As long as it works. As long as it works.
It was an unbelievable play. We're all going, 'Whoa!'"

The Sabres were also expressing plenty of emotion on their bench
after a tying short-handed goal was called back late in the second
period. After Ryan Kesler's power-play shot hit off the crossbar,
Buffalo broke out on an odd-man rush and Craig Rivet's shot went in
off the hand of defenseman Christian Ehrhoff.

But referee Kerry Fraser called Buffalo forward Paul Gaustad for
cross-checking Ehrhoff into the net instead, giving the Canucks a
5-on-3 advantage.

Miller made a couple of good stops before the period ended, and
Kesler's elbowing penalty ended the advantage early in the third,
and Thomas Vanek tied it on the ensuing power play.

But that didn't change Sabres coach Lindy Ruff's opinion of the

"I don't like it obviously, said Ruff, who was screaming at the
officials after the call. "If you're going to call that you better
call about 75 crosschecks in the game around the front of the

Ruff was less impressed his team gave up the lead four minutes
after Vanek tied it, especially against the Sedins.

"When you give the Sedins a breakaway from your own blue line
when your focus was not to give them anything, I don't think you
deserve to win a game," Ruff said. "Some of it may be fatigue."

Miller made 22 saves, including Kesler's early breakaway, as the
Northeast Division-leading Sabres dropped the final four games of a
season-long seven-game road trip.

Making their first visit in four years and looking for their
first win in Vancouver since 1999, Buffalo opened the scoring on
Adam Mair's first goal of the season early in the second period.
But Samuelsson tied it five minutes later and Henrik Sedin scored
on a breakaway 3:20 after that.

Sent in by Alex Burrows, Sedin faked to his backhand to draw
Miller to his left, stopped and reached back around to tuck it in
on the forehand. The assist extended Burrows' point streak to 12
games (13 goals, six assists) as the Canucks' top line combined for
five points -- giving them 14 the past two games -- and Henrik Sedin
increased his league-leading point total to 76.

"Their chemistry is as good as any chemistry as any two guys in
the league," Ruff said of the Sedins. "They can put pucks over
sticks, through legs, saucer pucks backhand, forehand."

Even right onto the stick of a low-scoring defenseman.

"Right now I don't know if there is a better line in the
game," Lukowich said.

Game notes
Only Buffalo's Tim Connolly has a longer active NHL
streak than Burrows after extending his to 16 games (seven goals
and 18 assists) with an assist on Vanek's goal. ... Buffalo RW
Drew Stafford was a late scratch with the flu. Canucks D
Willie Mitchell
missed a fourth straight game as coach Alain Vigneault confirmed
before the game he suffered a concussion after being hit head-first
into the boards by Evgeni Malkin late in a 6-2 win over the
Penguins on Jan. 16. He is listed day to day, but hasn't resumed
skating. Sami Salo (groin) is also day to day, while Kevin Bieksa
(ankle surgery) is out indefinitely.