To The Rescue
| All the talk coming in centered on Chicago super-rookies Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. All the talk going out centered on their kryptonite.
Roberto Luongo made 27 saves as the Vancouver Canucks snuck past the Chicago Blackhawks 2-0 Sunday night at General Motors Place.
The shutout was Luongo’s second of the season. He made 19 saves in an eventual shootout loss to Edmonton on November 14.
The Vancouver netminder was impressed with what he saw from a young Blackhawk team.
“They have some skill there,” said Luongo. “It’s a very different team than we’ve seen in the past. They work hard every night. We can’t let up against them. That’s why it took a solid sixty minutes and it came down to the wire.”
For his part, Kane was just as impressed with Luongo.
“He’s pretty good, that’s for sure,” said the 19-year old sniper. “He made some great saves on our powerplay especially at the end. I guess that’s why he’s a top goaltender in the league.”
Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault commended Luongo for making the big saves at the key times.
“Roberto had a couple of saves to make in the third,” said Vigneault. “The goaltender that he is, he was able to make those saves.”
One of them came late in the game after Willie Mitchell was sent off for tripping. The Blackhawks powerplay kept Vancouver pinned in its own end for almost the entire two minutes. To make matters worse for the Canucks, Mattias Ohlund broke his stick and had to use Trevor Linden’s lumber. Ohlund’s a left-handed shot, Linden’s a righty.
But Luongo came to the rescue of his gassed teammates, sprawling in front of a Toews snapper to keep his club in front.
Earlier in the period, Luongo threw out the blocker to thwart Martin Lapointe after the Chicago forward found himself all alone in the slot. Luongo came charging out of the net and calmly directed the puck out over the glass.
Arguably Roberto’s best save of the night came in the second period after the Hawks broke away on a 3-on-1 rush. Sergei Samsonov threw a pass across to Derek Byfuglien who fired a one-timer for the lower corner of the net. But Luongo slid across and got his right pad out to stifle the Chicago defenseman.
With just one regulation loss in his last nine games, Luongo was asked if he thinks he’s finding his MVP form from last season. But the Vancouver goaltender insisted he’s playing the same as he has since opening night.
“I feel the same way as I‘ve felt from game one. I’ve said it from the start. We’ve really started playing well as a team. Maybe that might have elevated my game too. We work as a team, when everyone is going in the same direction it betters everyone else.”
Sunday night’s victory was far different from the kind Vancouver fans were treated to over the last couple of weeks. After scoring eighteen goals during a recent 3-0-1 stretch, the Canucks have now tallied just three times in their last six periods, one of which went into an empty net.
While every fan would love to see the Canucks score four or five times a game, the fact remains that for this club to be successful they’ll likely have to have a lot more nights like this one. Vancouver got the early lead and Luongo simply refused to give it up.
It’s the recipe for success for this Canucks team.
It’s the worst nightmare for anyone they face.
5 – Shots combined for Chicago rookies Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. The two were held in check for most of the night but elevated their game in the third when the Hawks played their best hockey.
5 – Minutes for fighting for Byron Ritchie, who left the ice to a standing ovation after he pummeled Adam Burish in a second period tussle.
6 – Shots on goal for Daniel Sedin to lead all skaters. Daniel was finally rewarded for his hard work late in the third when he hit the empty net.
13 – Minutes of ice-time for Taylor Pyatt, who gave the crowd a scare when he took a puck in the face early in the third. Thankfully, Pyatt returned to the ice soon after.
The offence had no trouble generating chances but its inability to cash in kept this game a lot closer than it probably should have been.
Credit Patrick Lalime for keeping the Vancouver shooters at bay.
They gave up just 15 shots through the first two periods but allowed 12 in the final frame.
That being said, it’s hard to find fault with a shutout win. Sami Salo was a workhorse, logging 26 minutes of ice-time.
The powerplay struck early but failed on its next eight attempts when the Canucks could have put Chicago away.
The penalty kill was strong and recorded a blank sheet for just the seventh time this season.