Coming off back-to-back shutouts, Roberto Luongo faces a team that hasn’t been blanked in nearly eight months—and one against which he’s struggled— when his Vancouver Canucks open their season series with the Minnesota Wild.
Vancouver (8-6-0) had lost five of seven before Luongo pulled off a shutout at Los Angeles on Oct. 30, and that win sparked the team’s current 4-1-0 run. Luongo has posted two more shutouts this week, beating Nashville 4-0 on Tuesday and defeating Phoenix 1-0 on Thursday as he stopped all 52 shots he faced.
Luongo, who leads the NHL with four shutouts, made 28 saves on Thursday to make Kevin Bieksa’s first-period goal stand up as the Canucks improved to 2-1-0 on their season-high six-game homestand.
“I felt pretty good, but guys are doing a great (job) in front of me, too,” said Luongo, fourth among active goalies with 42 career shutouts. “When we help each other out like that on the ice, we get good results.”
Luongo hasn’t allowed a goal since 18:52 of the second period in Sunday’s loss to Detroit. His shutout streak of 138 minutes, 34 seconds is short of the franchise record of 210 minutes, 34 seconds, which he set over a five-game span between Nov. 23-Dec. 2.
To have a chance at breaking that mark, he would have to shut out a Minnesota team that has not been kept off the scoresheet in 33 games since a 3-0 loss at Chicago on Feb. 20.
Luongo has not posted a shutout in 20 matchups with the Wild (8-3-1) since his first career start against them on Oct. 22, 2000. For his career versus Minnesota, he is 6-11-3 with one tie, a 2.94 goals-against average and an .892 save percentage—his worst against any opponent.
This is the first of six meetings this season between these Northwest Division rivals after the Wild won last season’s series 5-2-1. Luongo lost five of his seven starts in the series while Minnesota’s Nicklas Backstrom went 5-0-1 with a 2.02 GAA and a shutout in seven games.
Backstrom backstops one of the league’s best penalty-killing teams this season, with Minnesota having a 93.8 percent success rate. The Wild killed off all six of their opponent’s power plays for a second straight game Thursday in a 3-1 win at Colorado as Backstrom finished with 35 saves.
“You look at him and at times you have so much confidence you don’t think they’ll score against him,” Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said of Backstrom, who is 8-2-1 with a 2.21 GAA in 11 starts. “It’s a great feeling to see your goaltender like that.”
The Wild - 5-2-0 away from home this season - have won two of three contests on their four-game road trip, but have done it without one of their top defensemen. Brent Burns has an unspecified upper-body injury that will sideline him for Saturday’s game.