|The last time a streak was this mesmerizing, Will Ferrell was racing across the Harrison University campus.
Roberto Luongo made 26 saves and established a club record by registering his third consecutive shutout Thursday night to lead the Vancouver Canucks to a 2-0 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
A humble Luongo was quick to spread much of the credit to his teammates.
“I think the whole group should feel good about themselves,” said Luongo. “It helps to know that the guys are doing a good job taking away back-doors and slot plays and rebounds and stuff like that. It just gives me the opportunity to challenge a bit more.”
But while Luongo refused to toot his own horn, his coach and teammates had no such problem.
“Anytime you get an athlete like that that’s on top of his game, it’s just a whole different scenario,” said head coach Alain Vigneault. “Roberto right now is really focused and really sharp and has done a great job for us.”
Vigneault was particularly impressed with Luongo’s second period.
“In the second, we got out-chanced something like 9-3 and didn’t play a good period and, again, he kept us in and gave us a chance to win another game.”
Defenceman Mattias Ohlund, who scored the game-winner early in the second, believes Luongo has taken his game to yet another level.
“He plays just like this most games he plays and obviously the last three games he’s been unbelievable,” said Ohlund. “He gives us a chance to win each and every night. Especially us defenceman, I think you appreciate that a lot.”
Luongo’s best save of the night was one of his first.
Five minutes in, former Vancouver Giant Gilbert Brule feathered a pretty backhand saucer pass to sniper Rick Nash in the slot. Nash found himself all alone with Luongo and deked to the forehand. But just as Nash appeared to have some daylight, Luongo took it away, jamming his right pad up against the post to keep the game scoreless.
“We didn’t bury our chances when we had good ones,” said Nash. “When you play against that kind of goalie you really have to work him and we weren’t good enough tonight.”
They can join the club. It’s growing quite rapidly.
Last time out, Luongo made 26 saves in a 4-0 win over Anaheim.
Two nights before that, Roberto kept Chicago off the board, pacing Vancouver to a 2-0 win over the Blackhawks.
Luongo’s shutout streak now officially sits at 195:34. That surpasses the old club record set by Ken (Spider) Lockett in the 1974-75 season. Lockett posted back-to-back goose-eggs on the way to a shutout streak of 184:20.
The NHL record is held by Brian Boucher, who posted five consecutive shutouts during the 2003-04 season on his way to a scoreless stretch of 332:01. Boucher made 146 consecutive saves during that run.
Luongo still has a way to go before he can even think about bettering those numbers, but the focus he’s currently showing on the ice means nothing is out of the question.
That focus was on display late in the second period after Luongo made a pad stop on a Nikolai Zherdev backhander. The save itself wasn’t overly impressive but the way Luongo found the puck as it fluttered five feet in the air was. Still down on the ice, Roberto reached up with his stick and cleared the puck away from danger.
That play ended a strong second period for Luongo, even by his standards. Vancouver was outshot 15-6 in the middle frame and Bobby Lou made a number of difficult saves, including two on Dan Fritsche from point-blank and one on Mike Peca, who tried to go top shelf with a quick snapper. Luongo would have none of it.
With well over one minute to go in the third period, the fans rose to their feet and chanted “LOUUUUU.” With each Vancouver clearing attempt, the fans gasped, exhaling only when the puck cleared the blue line.
Following an emotional home win over Anaheim on Tuesday, fans could be forgiven for thinking Thursday would almost be a night off. Sure, there was a game to play but there was no way it could mean as much as Todd Bertuzzi’s return.
The man who was traded for Bertuzzi had other ideas.
It’s too bad Vancouver’s next three games will all be on the road because Roberto Luongo is making the atmosphere in General Motors Place electric and is making each night more memorable than the last.
0 – Points for Markus Naslund, who came into this game just one behind Trevor Linden for the all-time franchise lead.
5 – Minutes for fighting for Jeff Cowan, who nobly took on Jody Shelley in a second period tussle. Shelley is two inches taller and 17 pounds heavier than Cowan.
5 – Blocked shots for Sami Salo, who is showing no fear while still being forced to wear the cage.
22 – Faceoff wins for Vancouver in 58 opportunities (38%). Henrik had a particularly rough night, going 0-for-7 the first two periods before finishing
2-for-12. 18,630 – Fans booed Scott Rintoul, after Rintoul said the word “shutout” during the second intermission.
Both of Vancouver’s goals came from defencemen jumping into the rush, which is always nice to see. The Sedins and Naslund were the best line on the ice for either club, again, and were unlucky not to walk away with three or four points each.
The defence hasn’t given up a goal in three games. What more can you ask for? Willie Mitchell made a big play late in the game to preserve the shutout, knocking the puck out of danger much to the crowd’s delight.
The 0-for-4 on the powerplay won’t have Alain Vigneault doing cartwheels. But the PK hasn’t allowed a goal in its last 13 opportunities and is 21 for its last 22.