A big win turned into a major loss for the Vancouver Canucks.
The Canucks wrapped up their best road trip in two years on Saturday with a 3-1 victory at Pittsburgh. But the win came at a big price: Franchise goaltender Roberto Luongo
left early in the first period with an apparent groin injury.
Luongo went down with just 4:54 gone in the game after kicking with his left leg and then trying to move right in reaction to what appeared to be a routine shot by Philippe Boucher that was deflected by defenseman Rob Davison.
"I don't know if it happened when I was extending or as I was trying to react to the deflection — it was pretty much a lot of pain at that point," he said after the game.
Luongo crumpled to the ice and stayed there for several minutes. He had to be helped off the ice, unable to put any weight on his left leg.
"There was pretty much a lot of pain there," Luongo told the media. "Right away, I knew it wasn't good. It's very disappointing and frustrating. We were playing great as a team, and I was really happy with my game in the last few weeks."
Luongo has been playing perhaps the best hockey of his life during the last few weeks. He leads the NHL with five shutouts, three of which came consecutively during a shutout streak that lasted 242:36.
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said the team won't know how severe the injury is until Luongo undergoes an MRI on Sunday.
The injury spoiled what should have been a festive finale to an excellent road trip for the Canucks. After a 2-1 shootout loss to the New York Islanders on Monday, the Canucks beat the Rangers and Minnesota Wild before stifling the Penguins.
Pavol Demitra scored twice and the Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel, each had three points as the Canucks rallied around backup goaltender Curtis Sanford, who stopped 17 of the 18 shots he faced for his second win in three days.
Luongo had started the previous 14 games before getting the night off Thursday, when Sanford won for the first time since Dec. 12, 2007.
''You hate to see your teammate down on the ice like that, he's the biggest part of our team,'' Sanford said. ''But we're going to have to move past that, and we're going to have to play some games without him in there.''
Demitra scored at 18:05 and Daniel Sedin
made it 2-0 at 6:50 of the second. Michael Zigomanis gave the Pens some life when he scored 22 seconds into the third period, but Demitra hit the empty net with 12 seconds left for his fifth goal in four games.
The newly formed trio of the Sedins and Demitra is one of the hottest units in the NHL, with 23 points in five games.
''It's a great feeling playing with guys like that,'' Demitra said. ''As a team, we didn't really give (the Penguins) anything, not even on their power play. Our (penalty) killers were playing great.''
The Penguins managed little offense and left their coach displeased with their effort.
''It's a disappointing game for us,'' Michel Therrien said. ''We didn't have the right attitude to play that game. They worked harder than us and deserved to win.''
The victory assured the Canucks of heading home for Monday's game against Detroit in first place in the Northwest Division. But it looks like the pressure will be on Sanford, not Luongo, to try to keep them there. Manitoba Moose starting goaltender Cory Schneider
will likely be recalled for Monday’s game as a precaution.
''I have a lot of confidence in Curtis,'' Vigneault said. ''They played real hard for him in Minnesota (during a 3-2 win Thursday), and they did the same thing tonight."Material from wire services and team online media was used in this report.