Down 2-0 after their star goaltender let in a rare soft goal, Bryan Smolinski, Taylor Pyatt and Matt Cooke scored in the second period to help the Canucks rally to beat the Los Angeles Kings 4-2 on Tuesday night.
“It was nice finally to help him out a little bit; he’s bailed us out so many times this year, said Markus Naslund, who scored into an empty net with 31.2 seconds left.
Luongo overcame his early gaffe to finish with 15 saves and help keep the Canucks three points ahead of Minnesota atop the Northwest Division. Vancouver can clinch the division title—and a top three seed in the Western Conference playoffs—with a win over Colorado on Thursday night.
“We’re close,” Luongo said. “So it will be a big one Thursday night for us.”
After Derek Armstrong opened the scoring on a power play breakaway in the first period, Dustin Brown beat Luongo from behind the goal line on another power play 2:50 into the second to give Los Angeles a 2-0 lead.
“I got to give myself a lot of credit on the second goal, I just wanted to do something to get the boys going so I think it worked out well and we were strong after that,” Luongo joked. “I had to do something; it was either that or get into a fight, so I figured I’d let one in from the corner.”
In any case, it worked.
Smolinski one-timed a power-play shot past Mathieu Garon from the slot less than 2 1/2 minutes after Brown’s goal, and Pyatt tied it at 13:26 by driving to the net and redirecting a pass out of the corner from Jan Bulis. Cooke completed the comeback on a power play with 51.9 seconds left in the second period, jamming the puck under Garon after a scramble at the side of the net.
“We were doing good the first period and beginning of the second and after that we took too many penalties and put ourselves in trouble,” said Garon, who finished with 28 saves in the Kings’ fifth straight loss. “After that, the momentum changed sides.”
Part of the momentum shift came from Canucks coach Alain Vigneault’s line juggling.
Smolinski was added to the top line with identical twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin before finishing a passing play between the two. Pyatt was moved off that top unit and responded with a goal playing on the third line with Trevor Linden and Bulis. And Naslund was in on Cooke’s goal after being moved to a line with Cooke and Brendan Morrison.
“Our start wasn’t good enough and sometimes you have to mix and match to create execution and intensity and it seemed to work out,” Vigneault said.
Not much worked for Vancouver early.
Armstrong got behind the defense and took a long pass from Jaroslav Modry for a power-play breakaway and Brown made it 2-0 early in the second.
“There just wasn’t a lot of energy and emotion,” Morrison said. “It was almost like a chore to go and try to win the division, when we should be excited about something that’s right there for us.”
Luongo made up for the mistake with a couple of close-range saves off rookie Anze Kopitar early in the third. He also made a point-blank glove save off Patrick O’ Sullivan on a power play with 1:47 left to preserve his 46th win of the season.
Daniel Sedin had a goal waved off with 5:38 left after it was ruled he directed a pass from twin brother Henrik into the net with his skate.
Vancouver finished 2-for-6 on the power play against the Kings’ last-ranked penalty kill. Los Angeles was 2-for-5 against the Canucks’ top-ranked penalty kill, failing twice to tie the game on third-period man advantages.
Canucks D Sami Salo returned after missing five of the past six games with a groin injury. D Mattias Ohlund is expected to return Thursday against Colorado after missing five games with a laceration on his elbow. After hosting the Avalanche, Vancouver wraps up the regular season with back-to-back games in San Jose and Phoenix this weekend. … Los Angeles finishes with consecutive games against Phoenix in a battle for last place in the Western Conference.