VANCOUVER - When asked earlier this week how coach Alain Vigneault decides which goalie gets the start, Roberto Luongo said it was probably just a gut feeling.
Friday, that gut got it right again.
Given the start for the third straight game, the Vancouver Canucks goaltender stopped 27 shots in regulation and all four Chicago players in the shootout — which included Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, and Nick Leddy — to lead his team to a 2-1 win over the Blackhawks at Rogers Arena.
Jordan Schroeder, playing just his sixth NHL game, scored the lone tally and his first big-league goal for Vancouver in the extra-time relay.
The victory, Vancouver's fourth of the season, hands the Blackhawks a second straight shootout loss.
With plenty of chatter revolving around the Canucks’ crease situation entering the big showdown — Cory Schneider, the team’s supposed No. 1, has spent more time on the bench than expected so far — Luongo continued his solid stretch of play. The netminder made several key saves, including a big glove stop on Bryan Bickell, to pick up his second win of the year and nearly extended his shutout streak to two games until he was beaten in the third period.
"I'm feeling good right now," Luongo said afterwards. "Sometimes you just get into a rhythm, you're seeing the puck, you're getting bounces and all that kind of stuff. When you're in that zone, you just want to keep it going as long as possible and take advantage of it."
When asked what he said to Kane after stopping the creative Chicago forward on the shootout, Luongo laughed, "I just told him, 'Not this time.' It was nice to make a save on him in the shootout, where he's very talented."
Despite the history and past animosity between the heated rivals, their first meeting of the year was rather tame.
The intensity seen in so many previous matchups was clearly missing. As was the physicality — or, at least, it was more one-sided.
Chicago had just six hits on the night while Vancouver threw 22 checks, led by Chris Higgins with four and captain Henrik Sedin with three.
"It's tough to hit when you can't catch people, both teams were real fast," said Vigneault, adding that Henrik — who was playing his 900th game as a Canuck — was a "beast."
The other big storyline heading into the game, besides the Canucks goaltending, was possible payback by Vancouver on Duncan Keith. But that never materialized.
Instead, there was no retribution of any sorts directed at the Chicago defenceman, who knocked Daniel Sedin out for 13 games with a cheap elbow on March 21, 2012. However, when Keith — who was booed by the fans every time he touched the puck Friday — lost his stick in the first period, the Sedin line made him pay.
Henrik found Zack Kassian, who fed Alex Edler for his third goal of the season, giving Vancouver the early lead.
The one-goal advantage wasn't enough though as Chicago tied the game with 10:18 to go in regulation. After Andrew Shaw's pass in front found Kane, he out-muscled a couple of Canucks defencemen and out-waited Luongo to put the puck top shelf. It was his third marker of the season.
"I opened up there and that's not what I like to do," Luongo said. "Once he held onto it, I started to spread out and it was not my best read of the night and … I ended up on my stomach."
The equalizing goal set up Schroeder's winner. He shot fourth for Vancouver in the shootout after Alex Burrows, Kassian, and Max Lapierre all missed.
"I feel confident in it," said Schroeder, who also finished with a shot and a hit. "I had a few tricks in the bag and it worked out."
The teams were a combined 0-for-nine on the power play as Chicago led with five opportunities.
With the Canucks now heading onto the road for two starting Monday in Edmonton, the decision on who gets the start in goal will again be an issue — and further scrutinized. As for how he'll make that decision, Vigneault quipped, "It's coin, baby. I'll let you know Sunday."