VANCOUVER, B.C. – Two goalies who struggled at the end of the regular season found their form in time for the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Youngster Jonathan Quick of Los Angeles and veteran Roberto Luongo of Vancouver gave their clubs a chance to win Thursday’s first-round opener as the Canucks edged the Kings 3-2 in overtime.
While Quick made 17 stops to survive a scoreless first period, Luongo saved his best work for overtime as his momentum-changing larceny led to Mikael Samuelsson’s winner.
“It’s always good at the beginning of the game to make a couple of saves, feel the puck,” said Quick who foiled a wide-open Alex Burrows with a pad save after the opening face-off.
“I saw at least four or five shots in the first couple of minutes. You get right into the game and that helps the rhythm and it goes a little smoother for the rest of the 60 (minutes).”
The athletic Luongo electrified the crowd six minutes into overtime when he reached back with his glove hand to swipe away a puck that was trickling toward the goal-line.
Kings forward Ryan Smyth shot into traffic and LA defenceman Jack Johnson fired the rebound off Luongo’s blocker.
After scooping the puck away, the Canuck netminder had to untangle himself from his goal stick which became caught in his skate.
Although he backstopped Canada to Olympic gold, Luongo is coming off an uneven season after signing a US$64-million, 12-year contract extension in September.
He finished with a 2.57 goals-against average and .913 save percentage, his worst numbers as a Canuck. Coach Alain Vigneault gave him the hook seven times.
In his final six starts before the playoffs his goals-against average ballooned to 3.34 and his save percentage shrunk to .889.
Quick, 24, playing in his first post-season, hasn’t won since March 22, nine starts ago. While he finished with a franchise-record 39 wins, his numbers were worse than his rookie season.
But he looked unbeatable in the scoreless first and third periods when his teammates were outshot 30-8, getting a glove on an earlier Samuelsson shot and twice stoning Burrows.
“You’ve got to feel good about your game to a point and carry it over to the next game but at the end of the day it’s not what we wanted,” said Quick who didn’t see Samuelsson’s game-winner.
Smyth said Quick’s 41-save effort built confidence for the Kings.
“I thought he stood tall on some of the scrambles in front of the net, he was really effective,” said Smyth who helped Edmonton get to the 2006 Stanley Cup final.
“It’s a confidence boost for all of us. We believe in him and we believe in this hockey team.”
Johnson, meanwhile was still shaking his head over Luongo’s 25th save of the game in overtime.
“I wasn’t sure if it went in or not,” said Johnson, another of the young Kings playing in their first Stanley Cup series.
“I had my fingers crossed but that’s the playoffs, that’s overtime. You come that close to scoring and then they come down the other end and score on you.”
Jarret Stoll, who was on that 2006 playoff run with Smyth, said Quick looked ready for the post-season.
“He made some big saves for us at key moments,” Stoll said. “It could have been a rough first period for us.”
Luongo, a former all-star, performed to expectations.
“He didn’t have a lot of work in the third (period),” said Vigneault. “He had one save to make in the OT and he made the save.
“That’s what we need from him.”