Vancouver Canucks coach John Tortorella is already quite fond of backup goalie Eddie Lack.
The 25-year-old Swedish rookie didn’t disappoint in his first home appearance, backstopping the Canucks with a 31-save effort and leading Vancouver to a 2-0 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday night.
With No. 1 goalie Roberto Luongo getting the night off, Lack continued his steady play and earned his first NHL shutout and helping the Canucks to their fifth straight win.
”The thing I like most about Eddie is just his presence. I think he settles the team down,” Tortorella said. ”There’s not a lot of extra movement in his game.
”He doesn’t get rattled.”
Lack (4-2) usually plays the second game of back-to-backs in place of Luongo. He got the nod from Tortorella with this game coming on the heels of Sunday’s 3-1 home victory over the Colorado Avalanche.
”The guys did an unbelievable job,” Lack said. ”I wouldn’t say that I was nervous. It was more excitement.”
That was enough to gain Tortorella’s confidence in him.
”I hope it continues,” Tortorella said. ”As a coach you’re looking at the present but you’re also looking at the future, too, as you go through a long year with a condensed schedule that we have with the Olympics.
”Huge game for him tonight. First home game for him, I thought he handled himself tremendously.”
Christopher Tanev and Jannik Hanzen, into an empty net, scored for Vancouver (18-10-5). Chris Higgins had two assists.
Tanev and Lack were AHL roommates before making the jump to the NHL, so it was only fitting that Tanev netted the winning goal in Lack’s first shutout.
”I’m happy for him,” Tanev said. ”I’ve known him for four years now. He’s an awesome guy, and it’s an incredible moment for him.”
Justin Peters made 24 saves for Carolina (13-13-5), which had a three-game winning streak snapped.
”I think as a team we deserved a better fate,” Peters said. ”We played the right way, we had some chances, just give credit to their team. Lack was playing well.”
After Tanev gave the Canucks a 1-0 lead in the first period, Lack was steady the rest of the way as Vancouver kept Carolina to the outside most of the game.
Lack made two glove saves early in the third period, the second coming on a hot shot off the stick of Hurricanes forward Nathan Gerbe.
Canucks forward Ryan Kesler had a chance to stretch Vancouver’s lead a few moments later, but fired wide on a 2-on-1 break with Mike Santorelli.
Carolina made a push in the closing minutes, with captain Eric Staal coming the closest to scoring, but Lack shut the door before Hansen scored into an empty net.
”I thought we were coming on,” Carolina coach Kirk Muller said. ”You have to fight for your opportunities, and in the second we got going, and the third we got a lot of juice but they are not giving up a lot of chances.”
Lack’s previous start came in the Canucks’ 3-2 road victory over the Hurricanes on Dec. 1.
He was given a 1-0 lead early in the first period of the rematch.
Tanev took a pass from fellow defenseman Dan Hamhuis and fired a snap shot from the point that found its way through traffic past Peters at 3:35 for his second of the season.
The Hurricanes started to find their legs in the second period, but found it difficult to get much going against the tight-checking Canucks.
Tuomo Ruutu couldn’t find the range against Lack from in tight midway through the period as Carolina’s 27th-ranked power play sputtered.
Lack came up big later in the period off the rush, stopping both Riley Nash in the slot and the follow-up chance off the stick of Patrick Dwyer.
”I think it was just as boring a game to play as it was to watch,” Kesler said. ”Those are the games we have to win, though. They didn’t give us much and we didn’t give them much, and Eddie made the saves when he had to.”
Former Canucks forward Manny Malhotra played in Vancouver for the first time with the Hurricanes. The Canucks shut Malhotra down after nine games last season, saying they were concerned for the 33-year-old forward’s health following a serious eye injury during the 2010-11 season.
Malhotra got an AHL tryout with Carolina’s affiliate this season before being called up to the NHL. He made his debut on Nov. 1 against Tampa Bay.
”It’s obviously disappointing we didn’t get the result we wanted,” said Malhotra, who spent three seasons with Vancouver. ”We felt we carried the play for most of the game, we were effective getting pucks in deep, getting sustained pressure on them, but Lack saw a lot of pucks.
”We need to do a better job being in the goalie’s eyes and battling in front of their net.”
NOTES: The Canucks don’t play again until Friday when they will play Edmonton at home. Vancouver will then host Boston on Saturday. It will mark the Bruins’ first visit to Vancouver since their victory in Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals. . . . Carolina will play at Edmonton on Tuesday.