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Luongo answers critics with vintage performance

by Dan Rosen /
CHICAGO -- Roberto Luongo changed things up by shaving off his playoff beard and refusing to make himself available to the media after the Canucks' pre-game skate Sunday morning.

He may want to keep the razor handy and his mouth shut Tuesday morning, too.

Luongo needed to come up with a vintage performance Sunday in Game 5 at United Center to keep Vancouver's season alive, and he was marvelous. He made 29 saves and gave up very few second chances because he sopped up the puck like a sham-wow.

"Oh, he was a sponge tonight," Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa said after contributing a pair of goals in the Canucks' 4-1 win. "He stopped everything he saw and controlled his rebounds really well. We're a great team when he plays like that."

They're also a smart and confident team when their captain is on his game.

"Roberto is such an important part of our team that when he is on top of his game and in control everybody feeds off of that and that's good for the team's confidence," said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault, who after Game 4 called Luongo the second-best goalie in the series. "We needed him to come up tonight and play a big game. We had a one-game mentality, and we came up as a group and gave ourselves another chance."

Luongo's best moments came in the first period when he made 10 saves, including a dazzling glove stop on Patrick Sharp and three in a row on Marian Hossa within a 30-second span.

Vancouver got goals from Christian Ehrhoff and Bieksa to take a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.

"I knew that it was going to be important to have a good first period and make a couple of key saves," Luongo said. "I was able to do that and obviously we scored some goals so that helped us get off to the start we wanted."

Luongo also stopped all 12 shots he saw in the second period and seven of eight in the third. He lost his bid for only his second career postseason shutout when Jonathan Toews scored on a redirection of Duncan Keith's shot-pass from the point with 7:09 left.

It was the only blemish on what was an otherwise perfect night from the Canucks' most important player, a guy who was criticized up and down for his rebound control after giving up 11 goals on 68 shots in Games 3 and 4.

"Yeah, I was fighting to see through the traffic there and I was able to gobble them up," Luongo said. "They were sticking to me and I was able to get gloves on them."

The lack of second and third opportunities was frustrating to the Hawks. Both defenseman Brian Campbell and coach Joel Quenneville bemoaned the fact that the Hawks did not get enough traffic in front of Luongo to create the havoc that allowed them to score 11 goals over two games in Vancouver.

"They did a good job of clogging up the house, so to speak, in front of Luongo and we didn't really get as many good looks as we wanted to," Hawks center John Madden said. "They played a different game that we hadn't seen yet, so we've got to make some changes."

Luongo made his changes for Sunday's game.

"When he controls his rebounds it allows us to get body position and clear the front of the net a little more easily," Canucks defenseman Shane O'Brien said. "He was great tonight and I thought we did a good job of limiting their time and space."

All that is true, but the fact is that when Luongo is on his game like he was Sunday, it lifts up everybody else in blue and white.

It's why you saw strong penalty killing by the Canucks for the first time in three games. It's also why you saw disciplined play from the Canucks for the first time in three games.

"I'm my biggest critic and I know what I need to do to get ready," Luongo said.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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