VANCOUVER, B.C. – A little snow in the face isn’t going to bother Roberto Luongo.
But whether or not the St. Louis Blues were purposely giving the Vancouver Canucks goaltender some ice showers had both NHL coaches irritated Thursday.
“If they think that is going to get me off my game, that’s totally fine,” Luongo said after practice. “It didn’t really work for them. I’m just going to keep doing my thing and fight through those things.”
Luongo made 25 saves in Vancouver’s 2-1 win over St. Louis in Wednesday’s opening game of the Western Conference quarter-final. Canucks coach Alain Vigneault accused the Blues of bumping into his goaltender and spraying him with snow a few times early in the game.
“Any team playing against us are going to focus on Luongo,” said Vigneault. “The ice spraying, pushing in the crease, I just think somebody has to pay attention to that.
“It was very evident at the beginning.”
Blues coach Andy Murray said Luongo was partially to blame.
“It was simply a matter of our guys stopping in front,” he said. “I think the referees have to get Roberto to move the puck. In those situations there was no reason for him to freeze it. He had ample time to move it.
“We would say that’s an unfair criticism.”
The whole topic of snow showers brought a laugh from centre Keith Tkachuk, a 17-year veteran who was one of the best Blues in Wednesday’s loss.
“I’m embarrassed to even talk about it,” he said, shaking his bald head. “You can tell the game has changed when you complain about something like that as opposed to running someone from behind or starting a brawl.
“It’s not a big deal.”
Murray denied his team plans to get physical with Luongo when Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is played Friday (10 p.m. ET).
“We’d like to get a few more pucks behind Roberto,” said Murray. “We’re not so concerned about the pucks in front of him. We need to shoot the puck and take advantage of our opportunities.
“When we get a chance we need to bury it. Roberto is a world-class goaltender. We’re not trying to do anything special with him.”
After two shaky periods Vancouver dominated the Blues in the third Wednesday. Canucks players agreed the team can’t continue to take penalties if they hope to beat the Blues.
The Canucks took some weak penalties, forcing them to kill six St. Louis power plays, including a two-man advantage in the first period. The Blues finally scored a power-play goal in the second.
“We can’t take that many penalties,” said forward Ryan Kesler, one of the best Canuck penalty killers. “They have a good power play over there and it’s only a matter of time before they start clicking.
“The less penalties we can give them the better.”
Defenceman Willie Mitchell said the Canucks can’t change their style of play even if the officials are calling a tight game.
“We have to play the body, finish the checks,” said Mitchell. “Last night we did that on a few occasions where we got penalized for what we thought was good, hard hockey.
“We’re not going to change that.”
Murray had no problems with the 17 penalties called in Wednesday’s game, nine of which went to Vancouver.
“I have no complaints about the officiating,” he said. “I thought our players played dumb. I thought we took some necessary penalties. I thought Vancouver took some necessary penalties.
“Every penalty I saw out there was deserved.”
Despite the loss, the young Blues were upbeat as they prepared for Game 2. Wednesday’s game was the first playoff experience for 11 of their players.
Murray said at least seven of skaters played below average, which leaves plenty of room for improvement.
“There is reason for optimism,” he said. “It’s one of encouragement rather than discouragement in the sense we know our team can play a lot better.”
Tkachuk agreed a win in Game 2 sets up the Blues well as they return to St. Louis for matches Sunday and Tuesday.
“We need to generate more shots, get more guys going to the net and get more second and third chances around the net,” he said.
“Sure we had a lot of guys with their first playoff experience. They were probably overwhelmed. That’s behind our team. We know we can do a lot better. We expect that tomorrow night.”
Vancouver forward Steve Bernier said it’s important the Canucks don’t give the Blues any momentum in the series.
“St. Louis works so hard,” said Bernier. “They know they are able to win games. We know they are able to win games.
“The only way for us to make sure they don’t get that momentum is to play hard. We just need to work hard and do our job and we’ll be fine. The first game is done. We need to think about the second one. It’s going to be 20 times harder.”