VANCOUVER, B.C. – Timely scoring by teammates has rescued Vancouver Canuck goaltender Roberto Luongo after his puck-handling gaffes led to soft goals in recent games.
But the skate was clearly on the other foot Thursday as the all-star made several key saves until the offence got going in a 3-0 victory over the St. Louis Blues.
“It’s nice not to have to (stand) on my head to get a win but sometimes you have to do it,” Luongo said after his first shutout since Nov. 8.
“But tonight I didn’t have that luxury and had to make a couple of saves but after that first goal we got going.”
The 46th career shutout came after Luongo had been testy with media critical of his giveaways.
“You (media) guys should be first star,” Alain Vigneault said with a chuckle after coaching his 500th regular-season game. “You pissed him off and look how well he played.”
Luongo finished with 30 saves and many didn’t come easily as the Canucks ran their record to 17-3-1 since Feb. 1.
In the first period, he stopped David Backes’ shot through a maze of bodies and reacted quickly to turn aside Keith Tkachuk’s deflection on his doorstep.
In the second, Luongo made a tough pad save on Patrik Berglund, foiled T.J. Oshie and smothered David Perron’s attempt to get the rebound behind him. Barret Jackman clanged the puck off the crossbar in the third period.
At one point there were 18 Luongo stops and only four Canuck shots before Alex Burrows scored at 14:54 of the middle frame.
But Luongo, who has been idle for long stretches during the Canucks’ club-record 11-game home win streak, said he didn’t mind the early pressure.
“It’s always been my trademark, getting a lot of shots early gets me in the game so I was feeling pretty good tonight,” he said.
Blues coach Andy Murray said his club worked hard but wasn’t rewarded.
“It wasn’t that Vancouver gave us anything,” Murray said after falling four points out of the last playoff berth in the West. “We went out there and earned it in the first 30 minutes and we failed to score on our opportunities.”
Teammates saw Luongo’s play as bailing them out.
“I think tonight he showed everybody he’s the guy and that’s what we’ll need down the stretch,” Burrows said after Vancouver improved to 38-23-9 with a fourth straight win and moved into fourth in the Western Conference, a point ahead of Chicago.
“It was one of those nights he was seeing the puck well and the whole bench knew that. Nothing was going to get by him.”
Burrows gloved down a Henrik Sedin pass from the corner in time to beat goalie Chris Mason from the slot.
“At that point we had five or six shots and I just wanted to get it on net, Burrows said after scoring for the 10th time in 13 games. “It went under his arm, a bit lucky but it was a big goal for us.”
Mason Raymond, with his first goal in 27 games, and Henrik Sedin, with his third in four games, provided a third-period cushion for Luongo.
Raymond made it 2-0 after Ryan Kesler went around a defender to feed him a hard pass that he tipped behind Mason.
“It felt like my first NHL goal all over again,” said Raymond who counted his 10th goal of the season but first since Boxing Day. “It’s just been a long time, it’s been a struggle for awhile.”
St. Louis forward Andy McDonald said the Blues should have approached the Canucks as if it was a playoff game.
“We’re pretty disappointed,” McDonald said. “I don’t think we had good temperament like we should have for the entire 60 minutes. It was there at times, but that’s not going to get it done”.
“This is playoffs for us.”
The Canucks trail Northwest Division-leading Calgary by three points and leave on a six-game road trip.
“We’ve looked good on the road for the most part this year,” said Vigneault. “This is an important trip for us and it starts with Phoenix (on Saturday) and we’re going to be ready.”
Notes: Tkachuk left the game after taking a Mattias Ohlund shot on the left wrist … Pavol Demitra missed the morning skate after taking a hard hit on the knee Tuesday from Steve Ott of the Dallas Stars but was in the Vancouver lineup … the Canucks don’t play at home again until April 2.