NEWARK, N.J. – For one night, Roberto Luongo held the upper hand over Martin Brodeur in the duel to be Canada’s starting Olympic goalie.
While a decision on who will get the bulk of the playing time at the Olympics in Vancouver in February is still a while away, Luongo laid out a compelling case Wednesday night in a showdown featuring two of the NHL’s top goalies.
Luongo made 27 saves, and Henrik and Daniel Sedin had a hand in three first-period goals as the Vancouver Canucks beat the New Jersey Devils 5-2.
“I’ve got to check my phone to see if Steve Yzerman texted me,” said Luongo with a smile, referring to the executive director of Canada’s Olympic team.
If Yzerman was watching, he saw Luongo impressively shut out the Devils over the final two periods.
Luongo was at this best late in the second with Vancouver holding a 3-2 lead. Luongo, flat on his back, made three point-blank stops on Zach Parise who had his 10-game point streak snapped.
“It was a bang-bang play,” Luongo said. “Once I made the initial save, I was just trying to get some low coverage. Luckily they didn’t have much time to lift it over me.”
The final shot in the sequence somehow rolled under Luongo and out of the crease.
“I didn’t see it because I was laying on my back,” Luongo said. “At that point, I was doing a Dominik Hasek impression.”
That’s not a bad way to impress Canadian Olympic hockey officials.
Alex Burrows, Sami Salo, Daniel Sedin, Alexander Edler and Jannik Hansen had goals for the Canucks, who won for the fifth time in seven games.
Niclas Bergfors and Travis Zajac scored for the Devils, who had won three straight and six in a row at home. Brodeur made 21 saves in one of his poorest outings of the season.
“It’s that one game that people see us matched up,” Brodeur said of the matchup with Luongo. “It is what it is. For me, it’s just a disappointing loss for us.”
And one that got out of hand quickly for the Devils.
After a tentative opening five minutes, the tempo turned fast and furious with the Canucks leading 3-2 after one period.
It was all Vancouver early, with the Sedin twins combining for four points as the Canucks jumped out to a 3-0 lead. It marked the 70th time both of the Sedins recorded multiple points in an NHL game.
Burrows got the Canucks rolling with his third goal in four games. Daniel Sedin flipped a shot on net that Burrows deflected. It hit Brodeur’s glove before trickling in at 6:33.
Salo got the second Canucks goal with a slap shot from the right point at 10:03 as Mikael Samuelsson, right in front of the crease, screened Brodeur.
The Canucks caught the Devils in a line change, leaving Daniel Sedin wide open in the left circle to rip a shot past Brodeur at 12:32.
Then the momentum shifted in New Jersey’s favour.
Bergfors put the Devils on the board, taking a drop pass from Andy Greene to beat Luongo from the left circle at 16:05 with the teams skating 4-on-4.
New Jersey mounted its best sustained pressure in the final minute and it paid off as Zajac scored with 6 seconds left.
In the third, Edler put the Canucks up 4-2 at 1:36, flipping a shot from above the left circle between the legs of Devils centre Rob Niedermayer and Brodeur.
Vancouver put the game out of reach at 5:18 as Hansen polished off a 2-on-1 break with Kevin Bieksa.
Luongo came up strong midway through the period when the Devils had a 5-on-3 power-play advantage for 1:06. He turned away Zajac and Patrik Elias, preserving the Canucks’ 5-2 advantage.
“It was not a good start for us,” Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said. “We were lucky to get two goals back and make it a game at that point. We did play better in the second period, but not good enough. It was one night when nothing was working and our guys didn’t have the legs they had in other games.”
NOTES: The Devils, ravaged this season by injuries, got Niedermayer back after he missed 11 games due to an upper body injury. The Devils activated Niedermayer from the injured list and assigned C Tom Sestito to Lowell (AHL). … The Canucks started a four-game road trip that will take them to Philadelphia, Carolina and Nashville.