VANCOUVER – Roberto Luongo’s reboot continues to pay off for the Vancouver Canucks.
Luongo made 38 saves for his fourth shutout of the season as the Canucks blanked the Los Angeles Kings 1-0 Monday at Rogers Arena. It was Luongo’s third strong performance since he received a week off after he was struggling and decided to push his personal reset button.
The Canucks claimed their third straight win – without injured scoring star Daniel Sedin (concussion) – and Luongo has been in goal for two of the victories.
“Sometimes you just need to reset everything,” Luongo said. “Obviously, mentally, I wasn’t where I wanted to be, and I was fighting it a little bit. But sometimes you have to put things in perspective and start from scratch – and that’s what I did and I’m feeling good right now. But, obviously, the team is playing well defensively.”
Manny Malhotra scored the game’s lone goal as the Canucks (46-21-9) cracked the 100-point barrier for the fourth straight season and moved within two points of Western Conference-leading St. Louis.
“It’s always nice to score,” Malhotra said. “But it’s even more fun to win, and we did it the right way tonight. We didn’t give them too many great opportunities in front. We limited their offensive time with the puck, and just made some really good decisions with the puck.”
Playing their first game at home after a four-game road trip, the Canucks played solid defensively while making simple plays against a tight-checking L.A. squad that did not allow many scoring chances.
The Kings (37-27-12) suffered just their second loss in eight games despite outshooting Vancouer 38-25. However, the setback proved costly, because San Jose beat Colorado, pushing the Kings below the playoff threshold.
“It was a hard game for us because we’re coming off those two really physical games and you could see there wasn’t a lot of energy in our game,” said Kings coach Darryl Sutter. “We were doing everything right. A tough one.”
Malhotra scored just 3:05 into the game when he fired in a Max Lapierre pass off the corner of the post and the crossbar. It was Malhotra’s first goal in 14 games.
“It was a good shot, but that’s one I need to stop,” said Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick.
Malhotra had not scored since a Feb. 18 home win over Toronto, and has also battled recent adversity. He missed two games for undisclosed personal issues, and was scratched from another game for the first time as a Canuck.
“I’d by lying if I said I don’t enjoy scoring,” Malhotra said. “It was fun to contribute offensively. But, moreso, we were able to roll four lines and, most importantly, we got a win.”
The goal came on only Vancouver’s second shot of the game, but the Canucks managed just three more shots in the rest of the first period, and opportunities through the second and third.
Vancouver received two power plays just past the midway point of the second period. Kyle Clifford was called for unsportsmanlike conduct for spraying ice on Luongo while stopping suddenly to avoid a collision with the Canucks goaltender as he smothered the puck. Just after his penalty expired, former Canuck Willie Mitchell was called for interference on Lapierre.
But Vancouver only managed a total of one shot over both power plays.
With the loss, the Kings spoiled another strong goaltending performance from Quick. Of his 32 losses this season, 22 have been by one goal – including 14 of his past 18 setbacks.
“It doesn’t matter,” said Quick of the lack of goal support. “Luongo played really well tonight. He made a couple big saves, especially late there in the third.”
Luongo’s stellar third period included two saves on Anze Kopitar. The second was a highlight-reel stop on Kopitar’s mid-air deflection of a Dustin Brown backhand from close range. It looked like the pressure had eased when L.A. winger Dustin Penner took a goaltender interference penalty. But the Kings received a late power play as Vancouver’s Alex Edler was called for holding in the final minute.
However, Luongo held off the Kings as they made a late desperate charge for the equalizer. The Kings unleashed so many shots that statisticians had trouble keeping count and changed their final tally three times before deciding on 38.
How close did the Kings get to scoring?
“Not close enough,” said a smiling Luongo.
Notes: Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault confirmed earlier Monday Daniel Sedin has a concussion. It was the team’s first public admission that he has a concussion since he took an elbow in the head from Chicago defenceman Duncan Keith last Wednesday. … Canucks defenceman Aaron Rome was sidelined with a knee injury suffered Saturday against Colorado while fellow blue-liner Andrew Alberts was a healthy scratch. As a result of Rome’s injury, defenceman Marc-Andre Gragnani drew into the lineup. … The Canucks are one game shy of 400 consecutive sellouts since Nov. 14, 2002. … The Kings scratched centre Brad Richardson, winger Kevin Westgarth and defenceman Davis Drewiske.