Now, Luongo and the Canucks will try to salvage the finale of a five-game stretch at GM Place and avoid the franchise’s longest home skid on Sunday night when they face the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Vancouver captain went down with a strained groin Nov. 22 against Pittsburgh and missed more than seven weeks with the injury - a span in which the Canucks went 9-12-3, slipping from first in the Northwest Division to second behind Calgary.
Luongo had a 2.17 goals-against average and five shutouts in 19 starts before he was hurt. Though he finished with 28 saves in his return, he lost 4-1 to Phoenix on Thursday night.
Vancouver (22-19-5) trailed 4-0 after the first 28:34 en route to losing for the sixth time in seven games overall (1-4-2).
“Our confidence is being tested right now, our character is being tested, our leadership group is being tested,” coach Alain Vigneault said.
The Canucks’ struggles have been compounded by their futility at GM Place, where they’ve lost six in a row. This slide matches the franchise record set Dec. 18, 1970-Jan. 20, 1971 during the team’s inaugural season, and equaled Nov. 3-18, 1978.
Vancouver is also trying to avoid dropping five straight overall since an 0-4-1 stretch from March 5-14, 2006.
“I think it’s just a matter of getting back to basics a little bit,” Luongo told the Canucks’ official Web site. “We all know what type of group we have and that we’re capable of winning.”
Vancouver hopes to get back on track with a solid effort against a Columbus team that has won seven of its last 10.
The Canucks have won four of their last six versus the Blue Jackets (21-19-4) at home, but have dropped four straight in the series. Luongo is 5-4-3 in 12 career starts against them despite a 1.98 GAA.
He was absent for the most recent meeting on Dec. 1, when emerging rookie Steve Mason made 28 stops to lead the Blue Jackets to a 3-2 home victory.
Mason tops the NHL with a 1.81 GAA and ranks among the league leaders with six shutouts and a .936 save percentage.
He had surrendered five goals on 94 shots during the Blue Jackets’ three-game winning streak, which was ended by a controversial 2-1 defeat to New Jersey on Friday night.
Tied 1-all with 8:41 remaining, Mason appeared to cover a shot before it slid free. Devils center John Madden beat the Blue Jackets’ Fedor Tyutin for the loose puck while fellow defenseman Marc Methot looked to be pushed into the goal post, dislodging it just before Madden scored.
“We played well, but we left the game out there,” coach Ken Hitchcock said. “They caught their break and they took advantage of it. Good teams do that. This is a tough loss for everybody, but we can move forward.”
Columbus is opening a three-game road trip that will carry it into the All-Star break. The Blue Jackets have won four of their last six away from home.
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