VANCOUVER, B.C. – Roberto Luongo didn’t have to worry about getting pulled this time.
The Vancouver goaltender made 32 saves as the Canucks edged the San Jose Sharks 3-2 on Thursday night.
Luongo redeemed himself after he was pulled in the second period of an embarrassing one-sided loss to the lowly New York Islanders two nights earlier.
“We wanted to bounce back,” said Luongo. “We had a tough game and were disappointed with ourselves, so it was important for us to come back and have a good one.”
Alexander Edler and Ryan Kesler each had a goal and an assist while Ryan Johnson added the winner for his first goal in 82 games for Vancouver (44-24-3) against one of the NHL’s best clubs.
Ryane Clowe and Joe Pavelski replied for the Sharks (43-17-10), who suffered their fourth straight loss. The Sharks now share first place in the Western Conference with Chicago after the Blackhawks beat Los Angeles 3-0 later Thursday.
Luongo’s effort was a sharp contrast from Tuesday when he was replaced for the seventh time this season after allowing four goals on only eight shots.
The Sharks outshot the Canucks 34-26.
Luongo thwarted Devin Setoguchi with 10 minutes left, picked off a Pavelski shot with his catching glove, and kicked out a Manny Malhotra slapshot during a Sharks’ power play.
“The last seven minutes when we took that penalty, they took over a little bit,” said Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault. “You could tell that the momentum was going their way – and our goaltender did what he needed to do to keep us winning that game.”
Pavelski drew the Sharks within a goal at 16:52, but the San Jose could not beat the Canucks captain again.
San Jose had beaten Vancouver in eight of nine previous meetings. Thursday’s game was the first of three Sharks-Canucks contests between now and the end of the regular season.
Luongo was especially sharp in the third, preserving Vancouver’s two-goal advantage for most of the final frame.
“I was more comfortable tonight with the way we played defensively,” said Luongo. “They were taking shots but were not scoring chances, and they didn’t have as much time and space as I thought last game, so even though I was busier, those are the type of nights that make me feel more comfortable.”
Johnson, feeling much less discomfort after the Olympic break allowed him to recover from two fractured feet that have limited him to 49 games, gave Vancouver a 3-1 lead at 16:48 of the second with his first goal since Jan. 28, 2009.
“I’ve wanted to bury one,” said Johnson. “But like I’ve always said, I’d rather have a big one – and it was.
“The puck was going one way and it hit (Rick Rypien’s) stick or his skate and went straight back on (Johnson’s) stick,” said San Jose goaltender Evgeni Nabakov. “So I was going one way and the puck went the other.”
The offence was a bonus for Johnson’s fourth line, whose main purpose was to stop San Jose’s top line of Canadian Olympians Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley – which it did all night as they were kept off the scoresheet.
“We got the change we wanted. We had our top players out against their fourth line,” said Sharks coach Todd McLellan. “They worked real hard. They bounced one in.
“It set us back. It didn’t kill us. If it killed us, we would have lost the game 5-1, 5-2.”
The Sharks entered the game still smarting from an 8-2 shellacking in Dallas on Tuesday, the first time they had surrendered eight goals since 2006.
Unlike two nights earlier, the Canucks got off to a strong start as the Sharks ran into early penalty trouble. Edler opened the scoring on a power play 8:31 into the game, putting his point shot through a screened Nabakov.
The goal came only 17 seconds after Thornton was sent to the penalty box for high-sticking Alex Burrows along the boards.
Kesler put the Canucks ahead 2-0 during another power play just under four minutes later as Kyle Wellwood screened Nabakov again.
The Canucks converted two of three first-period power plays and outshot San Jose 13-6 in the opening period.
“I was disappointed in the first period,” said McLellan. “Three penalties in the offensive zone. It took us a little while to get our feet underneath us.”
With the clubs playing four-on-four, Clowe put the Sharks on the scoreboard four minutes into the second. Johnson gave Vancouver a 3-1 lead at 16:48 of the second.
Luongo preserved the Canucks’ two-goal advantage for most of the third with some timely saves.
Notes: Minor-league callup Michael Grabner played well in place of injured Vancouver winger Mikael Samuelsson, the NHL”s first star last week, who is out two or three weeks with an upper-body injury suffered Tuesday … Unlike many other clubs this late in the season, the Sharks have no major injuries … Canucks defenceman Shane O’Brien returned to the lineup after sitting out three games as a healthy scratch. He assisted on Johnson’s goal. Andrew Alberts, acquired from Carolina at trading deadline, was banished to the press box for recent poor play … Jordan Schroeder, 19, the Canucks’ top 2009 draft choice visited the club on Thursday for a brief orientation session before joining Manitoba of the AHL. He signed with the Canucks on Wednesday after leaving the University of Minnesota with two years of U.S. collegiate eligibility remaining … San Jose winger Jed Ortmeyer was scratched.