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Home Warrior

by Sunny Dhillon / Vancouver Canucks
Great saves have become so routine and mundane for Roberto Luongo that he doesn’t even remember making them anymore.

Luongo turned aside 28 shots and recorded his sixth shutout of the season – all at home – as his Vancouver Canucks held off the New York Rangers 3-0 Thursday night at General Motors Place.

When asked after the game about a brilliant stop he made on a Marcel Hossa one-timer midway through the third period, with his team clinging to a 1-0 lead no less, Luongo drew a blank.

“Which one are you talking about?” said Bobby Lou. When the reporter tried to jog Luongo’s memory, Roberto chuckled and replied, “I don’t remember, sorry.” Such is the roll Vancouver’s goaltender is on right now. One spectacular save just gets clumped in with all the rest.

Luongo hasn’t lost at home in regulation since November 1. Over his last 13 outings at GM Place, he’s stopped 346 of 357 shots and has a ridiculous save percentage of .969. All six of his shutouts have come during this stretch, during which he’s posted a 0.83 goals against average.

But in classic Luongo fashion, Roberto was unwilling to take all the credit for his gaudy numbers.

  “I’ve been feeling well and the guys have been playing great in front of me,” said Luongo. “We’re playing especially great at home in front of our fans and it’s just something that right now we have the confidence at home and things are going our way.”

But just because Luongo wasn’t willing to toot his own horn, that doesn’t mean his opponents weren’t lavishing him with compliments.

“We know we’re going up against one of the best in the league,” said Rangers centre Scott Gomez. “We just couldn’t get one by him. It just wasn’t our night tonight. We battled to the end, we just came up short.”

Teammate Chris Drury believes New York played right into Luongo’s hands. “He’s too good – anything he sees he’s going to stop,” said Drury. “Everyone in the world knows that. We just didn’t get enough guys in his face.”

 Head coach Tom Renney echoed Drury’s sentiments.

“We got exactly as advertised from him,” said Renney. “Everybody in our team, everybody in this league, knows all about Roberto. The one thing you’ve got to do is keep pressing - going hard to the net, getting your shots there, get to the blue paint. We probably could have done a little bit more of that. Quite honestly, I thought he saw a lot of the shots so it’s that second and third effort that get you goals on a guy like this and I’m not so sure we were in a position to do that.”

Roberto’s teammates credited him with getting Vancouver two points it didn’t necessarily deserve.

“It shows again how important Luongo is,” said captain Markus Naslund. “It was a poor performance on our side but we’ll take the win, regroup and go on with that and also prepare for the next game.”

Ryan Kesler, who scored the game-winner, agreed with Naslund’s assessment. “It was a good performance by our goalie Lou tonight. We didn’t play our best hockey tonight.”

Luongo was busy from the outset, stopping Drury on a 2-on-1 just under eight minutes in. Drury elected to fire a slapshot that Luongo kicked out.

Four minutes later, Martin Straka got loose on a shorthanded breakaway. Straka deked to the forehand but Luongo stuck with him and kept the puck out.

Of course, you have to be good to be lucky and Bobby Lou must have had a rabbit’s foot handy as a Jaromir Jagr snapper clanked off the iron early in the third.

Luongo was also fortunate not to give up a goal in the second when he ventured away from his net to try and prevent a Blair Betts breakaway. Betts beat Luongo to the puck and had the entire cage to shoot at but missed. Lukas Krajicek took a hooking penalty on the play but likely saved a goal by interfering with Betts.  

2 – Hits for Matt Cooke, including a bone-jarring bodycheck on Brandon Dubinsky in the second that brought the crowd to its feet.

7 – Goals in seven games for Daniel Sedin. The rest of the team has 10 goals over that same stretch.

7 – Fights in 13 games for Mike Brown. Brownie rocked Ryan Hollweg just four seconds into this one, landing at least a dozen rights.

+17 – For the season is Alex Edler. That’s tops amongst rookies and top 10 overall.

25 – Minutes of ice time for Willie Mitchell to lead all Canucks. Willie might not have Edler’s sterling +/- but it seems night after night he’s front and centre shutting the other team down.

The offense was nonexistent for most of the night, generating one bad angle goal and just 15 shots through the first 55 minutes against a backup. The scoreboard might have said 3-0 at the end but this was a one-goal game throughout.

The defense kept the powerful Rangers attack in check for most of the night. With the exception of a post in the third, Jaromir Jagr was largely invisible. Vancouver also caught a bit of break with Shanahan sitting out.

The PP looked awful and after fanning on three consecutive third period opportunities seemed destined to cost Vancouver this game. Jaffray’s goal allowed them to save some face, but not much. The PK was fantastic on its way to a 4-for-4 night, particularly during a Kesler double-minor in the second.
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