BOSTON – Roberto Luongo allowed just two goals in the first two games of the Stanley Cup finals. Then Vancouver’s outstanding goalie took another playoff nosedive.
Facing a newly aggressive Boston attack in Game 3, Luongo gave up four goals in the second period and another four in the third. The Bruins rolled to an 8-1 win on Monday night, cutting the Canucks’ series lead to 2-1 and raising a key question.
Can Luongo bounce back in Game 4 on Wednesday night?
It took him a while to do that in the first round after Vancouver won the first three games. He was pulled from the next two games and didn’t start Game 6—all wins by the Chicago Blackhawks. He was back in goal for the series-clinching 2-1 win.
Now he is confident he can leave Monday’s rout behind.
“I’ve been through it a few times in my career,” he said with a chuckle. “So I know what I need to do, and I’ll be ready for Game 4.”
There’s no doubt he’ll be eager. He didn’t even want to come out of Monday night’s game when the Bruins were putting puck after puck behind him as his defence gave up numerous opportunities.
“I thought at 4-0, going at the beginning of the third with a power play, we might be able to do something. That’s why I kept him in,” Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. “At 5-1, I asked him what he wanted to do. He said, ‘Don’t even think about taking me out.'”
Luongo and Boston’s Tim Thomas are two of the three finalists for the Vezina Trophy, given to the NHL’s top goalie in the regular season. In the first two games of the finals, Thomas had many more difficult shots to stop, and several of the four goals he gave up resulted from mistakes by his teammates.
He was able to rebound from those losses and had a shutout on Monday until Jannik Hansen made it 5-1 with 6:07 left.
Thomas ended up with 40 saves, and Luongo had 30.
Thomas “has been unbelievable,” said Canucks forward Daniel Sedin, the NHL scoring champion this season.
The Bruins have never lost faith in Thomas, even after he wandered from his net to cut down the angle but was beaten by Alex Burrows just 11 seconds into overtime of the Canucks’ 3-2 win in Game 2.
Vancouver, similarly, still has confidence in Luongo.
“If you look at his stats, I think after a game like this, which has happened before, he’s usually extremely good,” Canucks forward Henrik Sedin said. “Nothing falls on his shoulders. We didn’t play good enough as a team and he’s a guy back there that’s going to have bad stats tonight, but the team in front of him wasn’t good enough.”
In Games 4 and 5 against Chicago, Luongo allowed 10 goals on 40 shots. Cory Schneider started in his place in Game 6 but cramped up and was replaced by Luongo. The Canucks lost Game 6 but prevailed behind Luongo in Game 7.
Starting with that decisive victory, he was 7-2 before Monday’s loss.
“Obviously, we’re all disappointed with the result but a loss is a loss whether we lose in overtime or 8-1,” Luongo said. “It’s a loss. We move on and get ready for the next game.”
Against Chicago, Luongo played poorly in two straight games after Vancouver won the first three. Now he’d like to stop his struggles at just one game.
“Just like Chicago, we had a bad loss and were able to bounce back,” defenceman Sami Salo said. “Not just the goalie. The whole team needs to bounce back. The guys in front of him didn’t play as hard as they should have.”
Still, the Canucks lead the series and will have a chance to win the Stanley Cup for the first time in team history at home in Game 5 if they can beat the Bruins in Boston on Wednesday.
“We are still in a good spot here,” forward Ryan Kesler said.