VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Winning was the most important thing.
Not having to answer questions about why a potential shutout disappeared late in a game made it even sweeter.
Jacob Markstrom made 30 saves for his first career shutout and defenseman Derrick Pouliot scored a goal and added two assists as the Vancouver Canucks defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 3-0 on Tuesday night.
The shutout came in Markstrom’s 129th game and 115th start. He had come close before, including in Vancouver’s 2-1 victory over Toronto on Saturday when the Maple Leafs scored with 2:52 left.
“If we won 3-2 today it would have been great,” said the 27-year-old from Gavie, Sweden. “I’m just more happy about not getting the questions from you guys, to be honest.
“It’s nice to be able to contribute. If you don’t let in any goals that’s a good way to do it. It’s also a team game. If you look at the chances, they didn’t have much.”
Markstrom was muted in his celebration at the final whistle. He calmly skated out of his crease only to be mobbed by his teammates.
Pouliot seemed more excited for the shutout than his own three-point performance.
“You feel awesome for him,” said Pouliot. “It was awesome to see him get that first one. He played unbelievable.”
Thomas Vanek, who scored a power-play goal in the second period, said Markstrom is one of the reasons the Canucks remain in the playoff hunt.
“There’s a few times this year he’s bailed us out,” said Vanek. “Tonight is the perfect night for him because in the first period we were god-awful. He kept it 0-0 and gave us a chance. It feels great for him.”
Markstrom shrugged off the team’s reaction after the game.
“I guess they were really happy about that win,” he deadpanned. “We have a good group here. We battle together. We win and lose together. It’s a good group of guys and it’s nice when stuff like this happens.”
Some of Markstrom’s best saves came in the second period. Early on he used his left pad to stop Derek Ryan on a deke in close. With about five minutes left, Justin Williams scooped up a turnover in the slot and took a shot that Markstrom gloved.
Nikolay Goldobin also scored for the Canucks (14-10-4), who won their third consecutive game.
Vancouver has won 10 straight contests against the Hurricanes at Rogers Arena.
Markstrom’s performance overshadowed one of Pouliot’s best games as a Canuck. Vancouver acquired the former first-round draft pick in a trade with Pittsburgh in October.
“He did a lot of good things,” coach Travis Green said. “He moved the puck well when he needed. He’s a young defenseman that is slowly feeling good about himself and finding his game.
We haven’t found out what his ceiling is.”
Pouliot, who has three goals and 18 assists in 91 games, said he’s feeling more comfortable with his game.
“For me it’s a confidence thing,” he said. “I feel better each night. I’m starting to add things to my game. I’m playing well defensively, that’s where it starts. I can add the offensive stuff after that.”
The loss was the fifth in seven games for the Hurricanes (11-10-5). It was the first time this year Carolina was shut out.
The Hurricanes controlled most of the scoreless first period, outshooting Vancouver 12-3. The Canucks found their game in the second. They scored twice, outshot Carolina 10-5, and kept the Hurricanes hemmed in their own zone.
Defenseman Justin Faulk said the Hurricanes couldn’t maintain the momentum they built in the first period.
“We had a little bit of a letdown,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s a thing of not having confidence right now.
“We are trying to find a way to continue that play we had in the first period and carry it into the second and not get disappointed that we didn’t score.”
Coach Bill Peters said his team couldn’t finish what it started.
“The start was fine, we did some good things,” he said. “I don’t think we had a very effective forecheck in the second period.”
Vancouver center Bo Horvat left in the game in the third period. Green would only say Horvat had “a small injury.”
Horvat went to the dressing room earlier in the period but returned. A few minutes later, he went to the room for good.
NOTES: The three-point game was a career high for Pouliot. … C Alex Burmistrov and D Alex Biega were Vancouver scratches. … D Michael Del Zotto leads the Canucks by averaging almost 22 minutes of ice time a game. … It was the second consecutive game Vancouver was held to three shots in a period. … Carolina last won in Vancouver on Oct. 15, 1999. … It was the first game of a season-long, six-game road trip for the Hurricanes. … LW Phillip Di Giuseppe and D Klas Dahlbeck were Carolina scratches.