His played proved it Sunday night in a 2-1 Vancouver win over the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
Luongo, who hasn’t lost in regulation in his last eight games, made 31 saves backstopping the surging Canucks, winners of five straight, to another two points moving them into first place in the NHL.
Alex Bolduc and Mason Raymond scored for Vancouver and Tanner Glass had a pair of assists; Bolduc’s goal was the first of his career, while Raymond, back after missing 10 games with injury, found the back of the net for the first time since recording a hat trick in Calgary on December 1, 2010.
Vancouver’s first game of 2011 began with the Canucks opening the scoring for the 23rd time this season as Bolduc snapped a shot past Colorado’s Craig Anderson from the slot with 1:45 left in the first period moments after Luongo robbed Brandon Yip.
That goal stood as the game-winner until Raymond added some insurance for the Canucks early in the third period as he turned a generous bounce off the glass deep in the Avalanche zone into his eighth goal of the year.
With Luongo having stopped 19 shots through two periods and 24 with less than seven minutes to play, Raymond’s goal came up huge as Paul Stastny snuck a shot just over the goal line, despite sprawling heroics by the goaltender, to cut the Vancouver lead in half.
During the frantic final minutes of play, it was all Luongo, all the time. He made the key saves needed to up Vancouver’s record against Colorado to 4-0-0 this season and 9-1-0 versus the Northwest Division.
“It’s been about a month, month and a half, that I’ve been feeling really good out there, energized and seeing the puck well,” said Luongo, who had the second assist on Bolduc’s goal and now has 15 in his career. “I’ve been working really hard in practice and it’s been carrying over to games.”
Stastny’s third period goal, which Luongo literally did everything he could to stop by swiping the puck out of mid-air from his back, ended the tender’s bid for his third shutout of the season and the 54th of his career.
“Ahhh, I don’t know about that one, it was close,” smiled Luongo. “I don’t know if you can allow a goal after an effort like that, I thought they were going to wave it off. I guess it was in.”
Two nights after Vancouver’s power play won it the game in Dallas, it was the penalty kill that salvaged the win for the Canucks against the Avalanche. The visitors were 0-for-3 on the man advantage, but they held Colorado without a goal on five occasions.
On the road against a divisional foe, you do what you can to get by. The Canucks did just that using the penalty kill to stunt any momentum the Avalanche were trying to get their hands on.
“They’re a good team, you have to give them some credit, they work hard, but as long as we limit our turnovers because they’re such a quick team through that neutral zone, if you don’t give them those odd-man rushes, it takes a lot of their offence away,” said Alex Burrows.
Added Henrik Sedin, “we go out there, we play our way and we’ve got everyone buying in and that’s making us a tough team to play against.”
Vancouver has now won four straight games in Colorado dating back to last season and have at least a point in nine meetings with the Avalanche.
Alex Bolduc’s hockey bag was filled with more than terrible smelling equipment post-game Sunday. It contained the puck he rifled into the Colorado net for the first goal of his NHL career.
Beaten and battered and now wrapped with hockey tape and forever stamped to commemorate the occasion, the puck will be dear to Bolduc for the rest of his days.
The goal was Bolduc’s first in 35 games played with the Canucks, spread over three seasons. In short, it was a long time coming for the fourth line forward.
“I’ve been getting chances, in the last couple of years I’ve had chances and it’s just nice to finally get one,” said Bolduc. “I’ve always worked hard, I believe that hard work always pays off and I was starting to wonder when my hard work was going to pay off and it finally did.”
Bolduc also assisted on Raymond’s game-winner giving him two points on the night to double his career mark of two assists. Before he even had his equipment off, it was going to his head.
“I think I’m leading the team in scoring in 2011...or I’m at least tied for the lead…it’s a pretty good feeling.”
The scoresheet hasn’t reflected it, but Bolduc’s effort on the fourth line hasn’t gone unnoticed or unfelt as the Canucks are now 10-1-2 with him in the lineup.
“They were great,” said Burrows of the trio of Raymond, Glass and Bolduc. “The addition of Mason there, he did a lot for us. They scored two great goals and they got pucks deep and got on the forecheck and it’s nice to see them finish because they’ve been working hard at it.”
Vancouver has outscored Colorado 13-7 in four meetings this year; it’s been eight straight road games since the Canucks suffered a regulation loss; the Canucks closed out December with a record of 11-1-2, their best showing in the 12th month of the year in franchise history.