VANCOUVER, B.C. – Roberto Luongo seems to have found his groove again.
The Vancouver netminder was at his best Thursday night with a 31-save effort in the Canucks’ 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings.
“It was one of my best games this year,” said Luongo, who missed six games with a hairline rib fracture earlier this season.
“They had a few chances, especially in the second period,” added Luongo. “I was seeing the puck well and it’s something to build off of.”
With the Canucks clinging to a 1-0 lead in the middle period, Luongo – who has allowed just six goals in his last four outings – reached back with his glove to rob the Kings’ Teddy Purcell of what seemed to be a sure goal.
A video review showed the puck didn’t cross the line and a disbelieving Purcell wondered how it stayed out.
“He was asking me if it was in or not and I said ‘whether it’s in or not you can’t give it back after an effort like that,”‘ said Luongo, a candidate to start for Canada when the Olympics move into GM Place in February.
“I made the first move and was out of position but sometimes when you’re out of position you’ve got to try to put an arm or a leg out.”
The Canucks, getting healthier after already losing more than 100 man-games to injury, improved to 13-11-0 and moved closer to a playoff position in the Western Conference.
Los Angeles slipped to 14-10-2 with their third loss in four games – all without second-leading scorer Ryan Smyth, who is sidelined by an upper-body injury.
Vancouver fired 15 third-period shots at Kings netminder Jonathan Quick and surged ahead after Wayne Simmonds tied the game in the final minute of the second.
Henrik Sedin, with his team-leading 14th goal of the season and seventh in eight games, scored the winner early in the third period when Quick couldn’t control the rebound of Alex Edler’s point shot.
Braydon Schenn, the Kings’ first-round selection in the 2008 draft who signed a one-day amateur tryout agreement for the game, lost the faceoff on the goal. Tanner Glass provided insurance 3:24 later.
The game also proved to be slump-busting for Alex Burrows and Kyle Wellwood.
Burrows, who had only one goal – into an empty net – in his previous 18 games, gave Vancouver a 1-0 lead by tipping in Daniel Sedin’s seeing-eye pass through Quick’s crease.
Wellwood then ended a 23-game goal drought dating back to last season.
After being erroneously credited for Glass’ goal, he hit the post in the final minute when the Kings lifted Quick for an extra attacker.
Wellwood finally scored with six seconds remaining to draw the loudest reaction of the night from the 18,818 fans.
“Missing the first one, I may have been too excited,” said Wellwood. “It’s been a rough year.”
Purcell wasn’t the only Kings shooter robbed by Luongo. He stopped Justin Williams twice in close late in the third period and made a number of good saves off Dustin Brown.
“He had a few rushes off the wing and I just played him aggressively,” Luongo said of his efforts against Brown.
“He was taking the puck to the net. I wasn’t sure what he was going to do but I was trying to take away most of his options by going down and coming out a little bit on him.”
With Daniel Sedin back after missing 18 games with a foot fracture, Burrows doesn’t appear to have missed a beat after being reunited with the Swedish twins.
“I’m going back to what I do best, getting them the puck and go to the net, try to get on the forecheck,” Burrows said after his fifth goal of the season.
It was another tough night for Anze Kopitar of the Kings who got four shots on Luongo but endured an eighth game without scoring.
“Our decisions through the neutral zone were not good,” said Kopitar who remained in a three-way tie for the NHL scoring lead. “We didn’t get the puck in deep, and they’re a good counter team, and they made us pay.”
Notes: Schenn, of the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings, replaced Andrei Loktionov who suffered a separated shoulder Wednesday in his first NHL game in Edmonton. … In addition to Smyth, the Kings were missing Rob Scuderi and Jarett Stoll, both with lower body injuries. … Vancouver was 3-1 against the Kings last season.