Vin­tage Luongo not enough for Pan­thers

Fi­nal score doesn’t re­flect how well for­mer Canucks net­min­der played for Florida

The Province - - SPORTS - BEN KUZMA [email protected]­media.com @benkuzma

It was go­ing to take some­thing sig­nif­i­cant to steal the Sun­day spot­light from Roberto Luongo.

Pay­back for the Mike Math­e­son hit that con­cussed Elias Pet­ters­son? A Niko­lay Goldobin goal? A dor­mant power play com­ing to life?

Even amid some uncer­tainty to what de­gree the Van­cou­ver Canucks would seek ret­ri­bu­tion on Math­e­son — the Florida Pan­thers de­fence­man drilled Pet­ters­son into the end boards and threw him head first to the ice on Oct. 13 in Sun­rise, Fla. to re­ceive a two-game sus­pen­sion — it was still the side­bar.

Luongo was the story. He al­ways is. He got the Luooos. Math­e­son got the boos.

That didn’t stop Bran­don Sut­ter and Jay Bea­gle from fin­ish­ing early and hard checks on Math­e­son and An­toine Rous­sel from want­ing a piece of the blue­liner. And then with Math­e­son on the ice as a spec­ta­tor, it was Michael Ha­ley who had to step in and fight Erik Gud­bran­son in a pro­longed late first-pe­riod bout. Math­e­son was chal­lenged to fight ear­lier but wouldn’t. Ha­ley stepped in and Gud­bran­son stepped up.

“Es­pe­cially in a one-goal game, you’re not go­ing to take an in­sti­ga­tor penalty and risk giv­ing them a power play,” said Gud­bran­son. “It’s not the wild west like it used to be. I think Petey would much rather we bring home the two points than put our­selves in a bad spot with a one-goal lead. I know guys tried it (ask­ing Math­e­son to fight) and he didn’t want to do it.”

Bo Hor­vat be­lieved the Gud­bran­son fight was gal­va­niz­ing be­cause the Canucks found a way to gain trac­tion in the game be­fore want­ing to set­tle a score. Ha­ley was on the ice again with 10 sec­onds re­main­ing but the Canucks had made a col­lec­tive state­ment al­ready.

“Guddy did his job and there was no rea­son for them (Pan­thers) to stir the pot even more,” said Hor­vat. “I thought we han­dled it the best we could and struck to­gether as a team. I went on the ice with him (Gud­bran­son) on that shift and I knew some­thing was go­ing to hap­pen. For him to an­swer the bell against a tough guy like that, it’s not easy and he han­dled him­self with ease it seemed.

“It pumped us right up. You’re en­gaged right away and to get it (fight) out of the way in the first pe­riod, we just took off from there.”

With all that out of the way, it was Luongo turn­ing back the clock in a 32-save per­for­mance and the Canucks fi­nally find­ing a way to solve their for­mer stop­per and then scor­ing a pair of empty-net­ters. Here’s what we learned as the Canucks won for the first time in four games (1-2-1) with a 5-1 de­ci­sion — thanks to a third-pe­riod win­ner by Ben Hutton — that moved them into a tie with the Min­nesota, although the Wild have three games in hand:

LOU’S SWAN SONG? MAYBE NOT

Ev­ery Luongo sight­ing rekin­dles the po­lar­iz­ing de­bate: Should the fran­chise leader in wins and shutouts have his num­ber re­tired by the Canucks? Or, should he be in the Ring of Hon­our? In what could be his fi­nal Rogers Arena ap­pear­ance, the 39-year-old showed he still has game — even though his num­bers were un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally poor (3.36 goal-against av­er­age, .891 saves per­cent­age) in his first 22 out­ings.

Luongo flashed a glove hand in the first pe­riod to rob Brock Boeser off a re­bound. He then took a Boeser wrist shot to the mask, made a glove save off Loui Eriks­son down the wing and took an­other Boeser shot off the side of the mask.

It took 21 shots to fi­nally beat Luongo when Eriks­son chan­nelled Pet­ters­son in the sec­ond pe­riod. He knocked down a Mike Hoff­man crossice pass in the de­fen­sive zone, went in all alone, and out­waited Luongo to score his first goal in nine games.

Luongo then got a glove on a Markus Gran­lund shot and foiled Tyler Motte. How can he step away af­ter a day like this? The Pan­thers are in an 0-4-2 funk and need him more than ever.

“It’s un­der­stand­able that peo­ple are cu­ri­ous, but to be hon­est with you, I don’t know my­self,” said Luongo. “I don’t have an an­swer. I’d like to play as long as pos­si­ble. I still love play­ing the game. Right now, I’m go­ing through a lit­tle bit of a tough time, but once I get out of it, I’ll be back to where I need to be and it will be fun again.

“It’s al­ways nice to come back here. The fans are great. It’s al­ways spe­cial for me. It will al­ways have a spe­cial place in my heart. It’s go­ing to take lit­tle more des­per­a­tion for us (to win). It starts with me on out.”

BAND IS BACK TO­GETHER

In­juries and in­dif­fer­ent play meant Hor­vat was go­ing to play with a host of wingers.

The cen­tre’s per­for­mance

pen­du­lum swung from shut­down guy to straight-ahead scor­ing guy and despite now go­ing nine games with­out a goal, there’s rea­son for op­ti­mism. Be­ing re­united with Sven Baertschi and Boeser has given the first wave of at­tack plenty of giddy-up and po­ten­tial.

Hor­vat, who had six shots Thurs­day, had four in the first pe­riod Sun­day and once again had his chances. He put a power-play chance over the cross­bar and put a Troy Stecher feed just wide on the back­hand. Boeser had the two shots off Luongo’s mask and got the empty-net­ter to seal the deal. The line com­bined for 11 shots and 14 at­tempts.

MARK­STROM HAD NO MAR­GIN FOR ER­ROR

Ja­cob Mark­strom didn’t see a lot of rub­ber, but he had to make a cou­ple of tough saves off Jared McCann (re­bound) and Ev­geni Dadonov (jam) be­fore Frank Va­trano scored on the back­hand.

OVER­TIME: Chris Tanev fell awk­wardly into the end boards on the open­ing shift of the sec­ond pe­riod and left the game briefly be­fore re­turn­ing to the bench. The power play is now 0-for-12 the past four games.

I think Petey would much rather we bring home the two points than put our­selves in a bad spot.

Erik Gud­bran­son

The Canucks’ Tyler Motte crashes into the net be­hind Florida goalie Roberto Luongo, fol­low­ing a good de­fen­sive play by Bog­dan Kise­le­vich, right, Sun­day at Rogers Arena.. — THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

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