VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP)—Roberto Luongo likes to stay busy in goal. San Jose’s biggest mistake may have been obliging him early.
Luongo made 32 of his 38 saves in the first two periods, keeping Vancouver in the game before two quick goals sparked the Canucks to a 3-1 win over the Sharks on Sunday night.
“They were throwing everything at the net, but at the same time that sometimes gets me in a groove and makes me feel better,” said Luongo, who made 11 saves in the first period and 22 more in the second before an easier six-save third.
After Luongo held the fort through consecutive Sharks power plays midway through the second period, Taylor Pyatt scored on a power play breakaway at 12:36, then set up Daniel Sedin’s go-ahead goal two minutes later.
Brendan Morrison added an empty-net goal with 9.5 seconds left as Vancouver improved to 11-1-2 since Dec. 25 and moved into first place in the Northwest Division, one point ahead of Calgary.
It was the 13th straight game the Canucks have been outshot, but thanks largely to Luongo they are 10-1-2 in that span.
“It seems we give up more shots, we get more wins, so whatever works,” Luongo said. “Some nights I’m going to bail them out and some nights they’re going to bail me out. That’s the way it works on a team. As long as we keep winning, that’s all that matters.”
Rookie Joe Pavelski scored his 10th goal, and Evgeni Nabokov stopped 20 shots for the Sharks, who lost for just the third time in 11 games to fall four points behind Anaheim in the race for the Pacific Division lead.
“(Luongo) was obviously the difference early in the game,” San Jose coach Ron Wilson said. “I know he didn’t see some of them, but the fact is, he managed to find a way to stop the puck and ended up being the difference, it’s that simple.”
Luongo kept it scoreless with a series of spectacular saves on Tomas Plihal and Mark Smith midway through the first period. Pavelski opened the scoring 1:10 into the second, beating a pair of defenders to a rebound in the slot and batting a backhand under Luongo, but the All-Star goalie only seemed to get better.
He was the biggest reason the Canucks’ top-ranked penalty killing unit stopped all five chances against a Sharks power play that is No. 1 in the NHL and clicking at almost 40 percent over the previous 10 games.
“He held them in all game,” said Sharks captain Patrick Marleau after being robbed twice on consecutive power plays midway through the second.
Vancouver was being outshot 17-5 in the second period before scoring on the next two shots. First, it was Pyatt tying it on a power-play breakaway at 12:31 after he slipped behind the defense at the Sharks blue line to take Markus Naslund’s long pass, and beat Nabokov with a shot between the legs.
“It was a great pass,” Pyatt said. “I was able to sneak behind the defense and he put it right on my stick. I saw room five-hole and that’s where it went in.”
Pyatt set up the winning goal 2:18 later, driving wide down the right side and slipping a backhand pass back to the top of the crease, where Sedin shoveled a fluttering puck up and over Nabokov’s right shoulder.
“The (Sedin twins) set me up quite a few times this year, so it’s definitely nice to return the favor,” Pyatt said. “Roberto gave us a chance to hang around and we got a couple of goals and it was a great win for us.”
Vancouver returned the favor for their goaltender in the third period, allowing just three shots through the first 14 minutes, and six overall, despite a pair of San Jose power plays.
“The guys played a great third,” Luongo said after the Canucks extended their penalty kill streak to 33 over six games. “We were very disciplined in our system and made some keys plays in getting the puck out and sacrificing our bodies.”
Pyatt’s 14th goal matched a single-season career high set in 78 games with Buffalo in 2002-03. … San Jose has played 49 straight games without going to overtime, the longest run in the NHL since the five-minute extra period was instituted in 1983-84. … Nabokov, taking his turn in San Jose’s back-and-forth goaltending rotation with Vesa Toskala, has been in net for all three losses in the last 11 games, but the Sharks only scored three total goals in those games.