Especially when the playoffs are on the horizon for the first time in his seven-year NHL career.
“Not really,” Luongo replied Thursday when asked about the importance of becoming the 20th goalie to reach 40 wins in a season after he backstopped the Canucks to a 3-2 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues.
“Every win for me is about playoff position,” Luongo said after his 20-save effort. “It’s nice to get the milestone, but it’s not really important at this stage of the season.”
Daniel Sedin scored on a power-play tap-in from the side of the net at 1:09 of overtime to give Vancouver the win that enabled the Canucks to keep first place in the tight Northwest Division race, one point ahead of the Minnesota Wild.
The game turned on a late third-period penalty when Blues defenceman Eric Brewer was given four minutes for roughing after Canuck pest Matt Cooke dumped St. Louis netminder Curtis Sanford.
Henrik Sedin and Trevor Linden gave Vancouver a 2-0 lead but the Canucks surrendered it in the third period for the second straight game after Luongo was serenaded with M-V-P chants.
Jamal Mayers beat him with a sharp-angled shot that found a way through his equipment and Petr Cajanek forged a 2-2 tie from a goalmouth scramble with 3:25 remaining in regulation time.
Luongo, who has 10 games remaining to surpass Bernie Parent’s record of 47 wins in a season set in 1973-74 with Philadelphia, had only seven shots in the opening 40 minutes.
“Actually this was probably my best game in that situation,” Luongo, who faced 15 shots when St. Louis opened up the game in the third period, said of his early lack of activity.
The Canucks hadn’t scored a power-play goal for four games and were 0-for-19 with the man advantage when Brewer was sent off, giving Vancouver a 4-on-3 manpower edge in overtime.
“They had a lot of scoring chances in the third but we had to stick with it,” said Daniel Sedin who tied the NHL record of four overtime winners in a season, a mark shared by teammate Markus Naslund as well as Patrick Elias (New Jersey), Scott Niedermayer (Los Angeles), Olli Jokinen (Florida) and Mats Sundin (Toronto).
“If we keep shooting, it’s eventually going to go in,” Sedin said of the power-play goal that was his seventh game-winner and career-high 31st of the season. “It’s two points, so we’ll take it.”
The Canucks snapped a two-game losing skid to improve to 41-23-6.
St. Louis, now 22-12-8 under new coach Andy Murray, slipped to 29-29-12 with their fifth loss in six games.
While Daniel Sedin got the winner, brother Henrik had the more spectacular goal. He beat defenceman Matt Walker with a spinaround move and fired over Sanford’s glove to the far top corner.
Sanford was also the busier goalie, making 34 saves to keep his club in the game. He foiled Bryan Smolinski three times in the first period, denied Daniel Sedin’s attempt to convert a rebound and stood his ground to stop Mattias Ohlund. In the second period he outguessed Jeff Cowan and Smolinski again.
Sanford was philosophical about Brewer’s penalty.
“That’s a guy sticking up for me so we can’t feel upset about that,” he said. “I just went out to play (the puck) and (Cooke) cut in real close and I think his skate caught the backside of my pad there and I went down. But that’s the way we are, we stick up for each other.”
Murray didn’t comment on the penalty other than to note that Cooke was involved.
“I was more concerned about how our team played early in the game and we need to be better than that.”
NOTES: – Willie Mitchell (groin) was out of the Canuck lineup for a second straight game … Vancouver returned Nathan Smith to AHL Manitoba after a one-game call-up … defenceman Rory Fitzpatrick missed Wednesday’s practice with the flu but played 14:32 against the Blues … the Canucks face Detroit, the NHL’s top team, at home Saturday … ex-Canuck Todd Bertuzzi (back) will not play for the Red Wings … Smolinski, obtained by Vancouver at the trading deadline, faced the Blues for the 10th time this season.