VANCOUVER (CP) - Roberto Luongo is doing whatever it takes to ensure he makes it to the playoffs for the first time in his career.
Luongo bailed out his offensively-challenged teammates with a 38-save performance as the Vancouver Canucks stole a 3-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Sunday night. The Canucks won despite being outshot 39-23 overall, and 22-9 in the second period alone.
"I'm just trying to do my job night in and night out," said Luongo. "Some nights, I'm going to be better than others. Some nights, they're going to bail me out. That's the way it works on our team.
"As long as we keep winning, that's all that matters."
Despite being one of the league's best goalies, Luongo has never seen any NHL post-season action in his seven-year career. Early career stops with the underachieving New York Islander and Florida Panther teams assured him of that.
Luongo is doing his share, and then some, to break that dubious streak. The Canucks were outshot for a 13th straight game Sunday. Thanks largely to their all-star goaltender, they are 10-1-2 in that span and are first place in the Northwest Division, one point ahead of Calgary.
"(Luongo) amazes me every game now - he's playing unreal," said Canucks captain Markus Naslund. "A lot of us lose confidence when we can't score, but he's definitely playing outstanding. It's exciting having a goalie like that."
Daniel Sedin scored the winner in the second period with an assist from twin brother Henrik. The Canucks are 105-34-16 when both Sedins score at least one point.
Taylor Pyatt and Brendan Morrison, into an empty net, also scored for Vancouver.
Joe Pavelski replied for San Jose.
The Canucks managed only three shots for most of the first period before registering six shots late. San Jose dominated play for large stretches but could not beat Luongo.
"I know he didn't see some of (the shots), but the fact is he managed to find a way to stop the pucks and he ended up being the difference in the game, simple," said San Jose coach Ron Wilson.
Pavelski gave San Jose a 1-0 lead 1:10 into the second period when his sweeping backhand as he was falling down went through a kneeling Luongo's legs. The goal came after Luongo kicked Milan Michalek's shot into the slot.
The Sharks had a chance to go up by two when Brendan Morrison and Josh Green took penalties one minute and 45 seconds apart, but they could not capitalize against Vancouver's strong penalty killing and Luongo's goaltending.
"Well, we know he's a world-class goalie and he really played well," San Jose star centre Joe Thornton said of Luongo. "We had our chances, but we just didn't bear down, but he played great tonight."
Pyatt drew the Canucks even on a power play at 12:31. He scored on a breakaway after taking a long lead pass from Canuck captain Markus Naslund. Pyatt matched his career high of 14 goals in a season and extended his points streak to seven games.
Daniel Sedin gave the Canucks a 2-1 advantage at 14:49 when, parked at the side of the crease, he put in Pyatt's short pass from behind the net. Henrik Sedin earned his 200th career assist on the goal.
The Canucks tightened their game in the third period and gave Luongo a break, allowing only six shots.
"When you have a goaltender that plays like that, obviously it's gotta get into the other team's head," said Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault. "And, in the third period, we didn't give them a chance."
Notes: The Canucks have given up a combined total of 53 shots in the second periods of their past two games. Ironically, thanks to Luongo's strong play, they have outscored their opponents (San
Jose and Los Angeles) in both of those middle sessions . . . The Sharks have a league-high four players - defenceman Matt Carle and forwards Ryan Clowe, Pavelski and Marc-Edouard Vlasic - among the
NHL's top 15 rookie scorers. . . . San Jose right winger Scott Parker missed his 10th straight game because of an ankle injury, while Sharks defenceman Kyle McLaren missed his fourth consecutive contest with a knee injury.