Somebody joked that Roberto Luongo pulled himself from the crease Sunday so he could make his flight with a four-day Christmas break from the practice rink awaiting the exhausted Vancouver Canucks, who have played four games in six days and six games in the last 10 days. Some joke. There was nothing funny about Luongo getting into a first-period collision with Blake Wheeler after earlier having his right skate clipped by Dustin Byfuglien and his right leg awkwardly extended. The Canucks starter was favouring his right leg before exiting with 3:30 remaining in the period against the Winnipeg Jets and being replaced by Eddie Lack. While seriousness of the injury wasn't immediately revealed — it wouldn't be a stretch to suggest a groin strain — the fact there was no panic with Lack in the Canucks net, claiming a 2-1 victory for their sixth-straight win on home ice. And it was Lack's best friend Chris Tanev who snapped a 1-1 draw in the third period. After taking a neat behind-the-net feed from Zack Kassian, the blueliner whipped a wrist shot to the stick side at 10:23. It shifted the focus on Lack preventing the next goal instead of the Canucks scoring one. It was worth watching. Lack sported a 5-2-0 record, 1.98 goals-against average and .927 saves percentage when he came on in relief and proved those numbers were valid. With the outcome in doubt at 1-1, Lack stopped Mark Scheifele after the centre did a toe-drag around Dan Hamhuis. He came right back and tested Lack's glove as the Canucks, at best, seemed confused and turnover happy in their own zone before Tanev scored. Lack was coming off a 24-save performance Friday in Chicago where he survived eight rounds of the shootout to backstop an impressive 3-2 win. In the skills show, he stopped Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa and only surrendered a goal to Patrick Sharp. That effort came after Lack recorded his first career shutout and first home-ice regular-season win on Dec. 9 with a 31-save effort in a 2-0 decision over the Carolina Hurricanes. As much Lack was confident the hip labrum surgery he had Jan. 29 — after having his AHL season shut down with recurring pain — would actually make him a better stopper, the jury was out. After all, the Canucks signed free agent Joacim Eriksson to a two-year, two-way entry level deal in June to forego the stopper's final year of his Swedish Elite League deal. Eriksson welcomed the camp competition and hoped the better goaltender would serve as Luongo's backup, not just because Lack's contract reverted to a one-way deal this season. Well, Lack was better and proved again Sunday that his calm and efficient game and even-keeled demeanour will make the Luongo setback more of a bump in the road as opposed to driving the club into the goaltending ditch. "I knew coming into camp, it was my job to lose and I just wanted to perform at a high level because I know I can play," said Lack, who has improved his footwork and play around the net. "With the surgery, I tried to look at goalies who had that before and came back stronger. It was easier for me because I had time and didn't have to stress about it and jump ahead a few spots in the process. I just felt like I could do everything the right way."
Lack backstops Canucks to 2-1 victory over Jets after Luongo leaves game
Vancouver Province | Dec 23