There once was a time Roberto Luongo thought he’d never get another start for the Vancouver Canucks.
By turning in a shutout performance in a 3-0 win over the Colorado Avalanche Wednesday night, Luongo raised more questions about the goaltending situation in Vancouver.
Luongo, who has been on the trading block since Cory Schneider replaced him as Vancouver’s No. 1 goalie, was rarely tested by Colorado but still made some big saves while stopping 24 shots.
“I really wanted to get in there and get a win for the guys,” Luongo said after earning his first win of the season in three starts and his 61st NHL career shutout.
“The guys did a great job of keeping most of the shots to the outside, enabling me to do my job much easier. There wasn’t any second or third opportunities either.”
There will be plenty of second guessing in Vancouver about who should start Friday when the Canucks face the Chicago Blackhawks. Luongo was one of the best Canucks on the ice in Vancouver’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Monday.
The 33-year-old veteran laughed when asked how coach Alain Vigneault decides who will start.
“I don’t think there is a plan,” he said. “I think A.V. decides on the way he feels.”
Having two starting goalies is a problem Vigneault doesn’t mind dealing with.
“I understand why this is an issue outside our dressing room,” said Vigneault. “We’ve got two goaltenders that want to play 60 games in a 48-game schedule. I get it.
“But at the end of the day they are both quality individuals. They are both team guys and they will do what I say and they will never complain. When I call on one to go in our net I know he’s going to give us the best chance to win and the other one is going to support him.”
Zack Kassin scored on the power play to collect his fifth goal in seven games. Defenceman Jason Garrison and centre Max Lapierre both scored their first goals of the season as the Canucks improved their record to 3-2-2.
Kassin tipped a Dan Hamhuis shot past Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov at 8:18 of the third period. That broke an 0-for-13 power-play drought for the Canucks.
Two of Luongo’s best saves came in the third period. With Vancouver leading 2-0, Luongo stopped Matt Duchene on a short-handed breakaway. That stop brought calls of “Louuu, Louuu” from Canucks fans. Later he blocked a John Mitchell shot from the slot.
One of Colorado’s best scoring chances came with the game less than two minutes old. Jan Hejda fired a shot that Luongo got a piece of. The puck dropped behind him and lay on the ice. A falling Luongo knocked it out of the crease with the knob of his goal stick.
It was another frustrating night on the road for the Avalanche, who dropped to 2-4-0. Colorado is winless in four games away from the Pepsi Center this season and have been outscored 15-3.
The Avs’ struggling power play has managed just one goal all season and is 0 for 12 on the road. Against Vancouver, the Avs failed to score on a 1:25 two-man advantage and on four opportunities overall.
“Every team goes through dry spells and slumps,” said Duchene. “When they come, they’ll come.
“It takes a little while sometimes. We’ve got to keep pressing. We’re getting chances.”
Head coach Joe Sacco said his team kept fighting even after falling behind 2-0.
“I thought we stuck with it, we worked hard,” said Sacco. “I can’t fault their effort at all.
“The 5-on-3 was a key part of games. We were down 2-0. If we score there it’s a totally different game.”
The Canuck goaltending saga began in last year’s playoffs when Schneider replaced Luongo after Vancouver dropped the first two games of their opening round playoff series against the Los Angeles Kings.
Vancouver was expected to trade Luongo when the NHL lockout ended, but general manager Mike Gillis is still waiting for the right deal.
Luongo said he can’t let the uncertainty about his future affect his game.
“You just take it for what it is,” he said. “I’m playing hockey in the NHL.
“I consider myself lucky.”
Defenceman Kevin Bieksa said the goaltending question isn’t an issue in the dressing room.
“There is no talk of it in the room,” he said. “I wouldn’t say there is no care, but you can’t go wrong with whoever you put between the pipes right now.”
Notes: Attendance at Rogers Arena was a sellout at 18,910. ...Garrison’s goal came on the Canucks’ first shot of the game. ...Vancouver defeated the Avs in all six meetings last season. ...In the first period Canuck defenceman Keith Ballard sent Colorado’s Cody McLeod flying with a hip check. ... Henrik Sedin played his 588th consecutive game and now ranks seventh in NHL history for the longest ironman streak.