Canucks 3 Avs 0: Luongo gets the start, looks sharp and gets the shutout

 

 
 
 
 
Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo keeps a sharp eye on loose puck after making the save on Coloarado's David Jones as Vancouver's Alex Burrows tries to clear Wednesday night at Rogers Arena.
 

Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo keeps a sharp eye on loose puck after making the save on Coloarado's David Jones as Vancouver's Alex Burrows tries to clear Wednesday night at Rogers Arena.

Photograph by: Rich Lam, Getty Images

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 Whatever the real reasons the Canucks started Roberto Luongo, it’s hard not to take it this way:

Cory Schneider can’t be the No. 1 goalie.

Not yet anyway. Not with Luongo still in Vancouver. And not with Luongo playing as well as he has been to start this season.

A No. 1 goalie needs to play. Yes, even when he’s struggling. That’s a luxury which was always afforded Luongo. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to believe Schneider will get the same support with Luongo looming, overlooking the city like the bat signal in that giant billboard which is slapped upside Rogers Arena.

The surprise call to start Luongo was the right one for the here and now. It was like old times. A droopy Canucks team needed a lift, and they got it with a throwback Luongo performance. He was lucky, then good and then great, getting his first win of the season, a 3-0 shutout against the Avalanche.

So what’s next?

Who knows. But either the Canucks ride the hot hand against the Chicago Blackhawks or they give the nod to Schneider, who will then face the challenge of going in a little colder against a wickedly skilled team which has had one of the hottest starts in the NHL.

Without Ryan O’Reilly and Gabriel Landeskog, the Avalanche still controlled Wednesday’s game for stretches in the first half. But Luongo made some good saves, didn’t give up many drool-worthy rebounds and was not beaten for a softy. Needing that goaltending, the Canucks gained confidence as the game wore on, before blowing it open in the third period.

To start, the Canucks struggled gaining traction, but an Avalanche team without some of its marquee players couldn’t take advantage.

Luongo was lucky early. Just 1:16 into the first, a 62-foot slapper from Jan Hejda leaked through him. The puck rested dangerously in the blue paint, and Luongo swung his stick through the crease. His knob, his undoing on so many goals in the past few years, knocked the puck out instead of in for once. Call it a reversal of fortune.

"That was pure luck there," Luongo said. "I knew the puck had squeaked through me. I wasn’t sure where it was. That was a pure coincidence. Luckily, the guy who took the rebound shot took it right off my back."

From there, Luongo was dialed in. As good as he’s ever been to start a season. His biggest save came 2:56 into the third. With the Canucks on the power play, Dan Hamhuis coughed up the puck and it led directly to a shorthanded partial breakaway for Matt Duchene. Luongo stayed with Duchene, and waited for the Colorado forward to make the first move before he closed off the five hole. He made the save look easy. The fans went bananas. See, old times.

"I feel great," Luongo said. "I’m moving really well. I’m trying to keep my body centred on every shot and not leaning away from the puck. I’m really happy with the way I’m moving in the crease and the way I’m seeing the puck.

"I have to credit him."

And by him, Luongo was talking about Francois Allaire. For the first time in his career, he spent seven weeks this offseason with the goalie coach who helped develop him as a teenager. It was an opportunity which presented itself because of the lockout and because Allaire decided to buy a place in Florida.

"Craig Anderson was with us too, and he’s on fire," Luongo said.

The Canucks took 7:34 to get their first shot on net against Colrado. It went in for Jason Garrison, an ugly goal against the flow of play. It was Garrison’s first goal of the season.

Colorado outshout the Canucks 20-16 over the first two periods. At the 7:35 mark of the middle frame, Aaron Volpatti took a cross checking penalty and the Avalanche had its best opportunity to tie the game.

Duchene got off a rocket from 50 feet out, but Luongo made a right pad save despite several bodies screening him in the slot. Less than a minute later, infamous Canucks killer Milan Hejduk wired a 30-foot snap shot, but Luongo calmly plucked it out of the air with a slick glove save.

The Canucks took a two-goal lead at 15:12 of the second when Max Lapierre picked up a bouncing puck and tapped it by Semyon Varlamov. Neither of the first two goals looked good on Varlamov.

In the third, the Canucks leading scorer Zack Kassian (5 goals) put the game away when he re-directed a Dan Hamhuis shot into the net.

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Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo keeps a sharp eye on loose puck after making the save on Coloarado's David Jones as Vancouver's Alex Burrows tries to clear Wednesday night at Rogers Arena.
 

Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo keeps a sharp eye on loose puck after making the save on Coloarado's David Jones as Vancouver's Alex Burrows tries to clear Wednesday night at Rogers Arena.

Photograph by: Rich Lam, Getty Images

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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