VANCOUVER – As he stood talking to reporters in the Vancouver Canucks dressing room, Roberto Luongo just kept shaking his head.
The Canucks goaltender was still wondering what had happened after a Vancouver own-goal proved to be the winner in a demoralizing 4-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night.
“I didn’t see,” said Luongo. “I didn’t see it.
“They didn’t show it on the Jumbotron, I didn’t see it. You guys tell me what happened. You guys saw it. I don’t even know what happened, I have to watch it on video. I left (the puck) for our guys and was looking up ice to get back to my net and all of a sudden it’s in the back of my net.”
A Dan Hamhuis clearing attempt hit Jason Garrison and caromed in off Luongo’s skates. Hamhuis reached in vain for the puck but was unsuccessful as it crossed the goal-line first.
“I was picking up the puck and it clipped off (Garrison’s) skate and ended up in Lou’s feet and in the net,” said Hamhuis. “It’s a tough break.”
Lars Eller got credit for the goal, which came at 16:12 of the second period—exactly three minutes after Henrik Sedin’s power-play goal reduced Montreal’s lead to 2-1.
When asked to describe how helpless he felt watching the puck go in, Hamhuis battled to avoid tears and succeeded—just barely.
“It’s a bad feeling,” he said with a sigh. “It’s just one of those bad breaks, I guess, and we’ll see what happens and do whatever we can to try and rebound from it.”
Until the miscue, the Canucks had enjoyed a decisive edge in shots. But the hosts never recovered from the gaffe.
“I thought they played a really good game tonight,” said Hamhuis. “We probably weren’t at our best in the second half of the game. We weren’t on our toes and playing the aggressive style that we want to.”
The Canucks held a 31-20 edge in shots after the second period. But in the third period, the hosts did not get a shot until the 11:53 mark.
“I can’t explain what happened in the third,” said Luongo. “It’s a very disappointing loss, the way we lost and that’s all I got to say.”
The loss was Vancouver’s second consecutive home setback as they saw their record fall to 3-3-0. The Habs (5-2-2) posted their third win in four games.
Hamhuis’ woes continued in the third period as he took an interference penalty that resulted in Tomas Plekanec’s power-play goal, which gave Montreal a two-goal cushion.
“We didn’t play a good third period,” said Vancouver coach John Tortorella. “Whether it was a result of that (own-goal), I don’t know. Up until that point, I thought we played a really good hockey game.”
Canadiens goaltender Carey Price did, too, recording 39 saves as the Canucks outshot Montreal 40-38 despite their late swoon.
“It’s tough. The way (Price) was playing, he played really well tonight,” said Tortorella. “For us to battle back and finally get one, on a power play right in the second period, it’s a tough one to eat. It happens. But you have to be resilient enough to handle those type of situations.”
Tortorella objected to perceived delay tactics by Montreal coach Michel Therrien just before a penalty to Hamhuis and Plekanec’s key insurance marker. Two Habs went to the bench to get sticks after Therrien was not allowed to call a timeout because he had used one earlier in the game.
“The referees understand there’s no timeouts by the other team,” said Tortorella. “I’ve never seen two players go get two sticks, and Michel came along and had a conversation. It was like Abbott and Costello. But he did his job. That’s a coach trying to do his job and the refs allowed him to do it.”
Tortorella said he tried to stop the move, but failed.
“I was yelling: ‘Don’t let him play you. Don’t let him play you.’ But he played them, right to the bitter end.”