Luongo, widely mentioned as a Hart and Vezina trophy candidate, surrendered a rare soft goal to Dustin Brown that gave the Los Angeles Kings a 2-0 lead early in the second period. The Canucks had been flat on the attack and shaky on defence but rallied for a 4-2 NHL win.
“I want to give myself some credit on the second goal,” said an almost straight-faced Luongo, who is within one win of joining Martin Brodeur in matching Bernie Parent’s NHL record of 47 set in 1973-74.
“I wanted to do something to get the boys going so I think it worked well and we played strong after that.
“I had to do something. It was either that or get into a fight, so if figured I’d let one in from the corner. They picked it up right away and we went into the third (period) with the lead, so it was huge for us and they played a great third period.”
The Kings, who also got a power-play goal from Derek Armstrong, were limited to four shots in the final period and were outshot 32-17 over 60 minutes.
Bryan Smolinski started the comeback with a man-advantage goal two minutes after Brown banked the puck in off Luongo from a near-impossible angle on a Kings power play.
Taylor Pyatt tied the game by going hard to the net to deflect Jan Bulis’s centring pass behind Kings goalie Mathieu Garon.
And Matt Cooke scored the winner on another power play when he chipped the puck high on Garon and stuffed the rebound under him.
“It was nice to finally help him out a little bit,” Markus Naslund, who deposited his 24th goal of the year into an empty net, said of Luongo. “He’s bailed us out so many times this year.
“Not that he played poorly, but he missed the one that he usually saves.”
Vancouver improved to 48-24-7 for 103 points, one shy of the club record. They also maintained their three-point lead over second-place Minnesota Wild and are in the driver’s seat with a game in hand.
Vancouver can clinch first in its division and the third playoff seed in the Western Conference by winning one of its three remaining regular-season games.
The Kings, out of the playoffs for the fourth straight season, dropped to 26-40-14.
Brendan Morrison, who drew an assist on Cooke’s winner, said Brown’s goal was like a whiff of smelling salts for the lacklustre Canucks who also fell behind 2-0 at home Saturday and lost 3-2 to the Calgary Flames.
“It definitely got us going,” said Morrison, who is enjoying a solid second half after struggling to recover from off-season hip surgery. “They get that lucky goal, the second one, and it was a wake-up call for us and we started playing in the second (period.)”
The game was still on the line when Luongo denied Patrick O’Sullivan on a close-in chance.
“He’s done it enough times this year for us, that’s for sure,” Morrison said. “He didn’t see a lot of action tonight, but he was there when we needed him in the third with a couple of big saves.”
Brown felt the Kings did well on the penalty kill although the Canucks converted two of six opportunities.
“We played a pretty good game on the penalty kill,” said Brown, who has 17 goals on the season. “It was just a few bad breaks here and there and they capitalized on them.”
Los Angeles coach Marc Crawford said penalties and inexperience caused the Kings to lose their fifth straight game.
“We played hard tonight and we were probably just a little bit too young and I thought we took a few too many penalties,” said Crawford. “They got a few breaks tonight on some of those things, and they took advantage of them.”
NOTES: The game matched the best (Vancouver) and worst (Los Angeles) penalty kills in the league but each club scored twice with the man advantage … defenceman Sami Salo returned to the Vancouver lineup after missing five of the last six games with a groin strain … Mattias Ohlund (lacerated elbow) is expected to return to the Canucks blue-line Thursday against Colorado … he’s missed five games … call-up Yannick Tremblay was reassigned to AHL Manitoba … the Kings were also missing key members of their defence corps with Rob Blake (neck strain) and Lubomir Visnovsky (ankle) on the shelf … LA recalled forward Lauri Tukonen from AHL Manchester.