After being plagued by inconsistency during his first season in Vancouver, Roberto Luongo has started to play like the goaltender the Canucks were expecting when they pulled off a blockbuster trade to acquire him.
Luongo will try to lead the streaking Canucks (22-18-1) to their sixth straight win and increase their slim Northwest Division lead as they face the Edmonton Oilers at GM Place on Friday.
Luongo was acquired June 23 from Florida in a five-player deal that sent Todd Bertuzzi and Alex Auld to the Panthers. Less than a week after that, the Canucks signed Luongo to a four-year, $27 million deal.
But through his first 33 games, Luongo had given up at least three goals in 16 of them. He also wasn't able to string together more than three wins in a row, but didn't lose more than three straight in that span either.
He's reeled off five straight wins since losing to Columbus on Dec. 26, giving up just 11 goals. Luongo gave up one goal in regulation, and stopped the final four skaters he faced in a shootout en route to a 2-1 win over Dallas on Wednesday.
"I felt good the whole game," said Luongo, who last won six straight from March 18-29 while with Florida, including three in shootouts. "I felt pretty confident."
Luongo also impressed the opposition.
"I thought we played well enough to win but Luongo played great for them," Dallas coach Dave Tippett said. "We put 40 shots on him and had some good opportunities but he made some good saves for them."
Mattias Ohlund scored an unassisted power-play goal and Ryan Kesler added the game-winner in the sixth round of the shootout for the Canucks, whose surge has carried them to the division lead. Vancouver has a one-point lead over Calgary and Minnesota, four over Edmonton (19-18-3) and five in front of Colorado.
The Oilers escaped from last place by picking up a point following a 6-5 shootout loss to the Stars on Thursday in what turned out to be a bizarre game.
Edmonton squandered a 4-2 third-period lead by allowing three goals less than five minutes apart. The Oilers got the tying goal when the Stars' Patrik Stefan lost an edge and the puck skating in alone on an empty net with less than 10 seconds to play in regulation. Ales Hemsky tied the score for Edmonton with 2 seconds to go.
"We were bestowed upon a miracle at the end," Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said. "I have never seen anything like it. It's one of those moments in hockey that you'll remember forever. It turned a disaster into a debacle."
Ryan Smyth remained red-hot, tying a season-high with four points on a goal and three assists. He's scored in all five games since missing nearly a month with a broken thumb - recording five goals and four assists - but the Oilers are just 1-3-1.
This is the start of a three-game road trip for the Oilers, who also will play at San Jose and Los Angeles. Edmonton has been held to three goals or less in its last seven road games, losing five.
The Canucks and Oilers have split four games this season, with each team winning once at home and on the road.