Reader here all know what a fan of Roberto Luongo I am. Hell, just look at the "signature". Initially, I was of the mind that #1 should get the start in the Heritage Classic. But then I realized something.. I was, and am, a Canuck fan first. At a time when the team needs the two points more than anything, it just happens that Eddie Lack has been playing better right now.
That does not make him the better goalie. Nor does it make the fact that he got the start an "insult" to Roberto Luongo, no matter how much the media and Twitter tells you it is. Every hockey player I have ever been around knows that it is a team game. I would even posit that ( for those that think Torts has "lost the room" over this ) in the meritocracy that is a hockey locker room, the team is fine with the guy that has let in one goal in two games starting.
With all that "drama" as a backdrop to this game, and with two teams in desperate need of the two points in their respective playoff races, we expected to see a great game. Did we get that? Yes. Just not the result that we wanted.
The intensity meter was sure turned up, and through all the lines getting out there for their first shifts, there was a lot of push in this game early on. Eddie Lack got into the game early, with some good saves, and the Sens took the first penalty on a high stick on Kesler. The power play looked like it has for a while, until a basic power play set up ( get the puck to the bomber at the point ) resulted in Garrison putting a high one past Anderson for an early, and deserved 1-0 lead.
The Canucks and Senators kept up the pace, and then Neil high sticked Tanev on the forecheck, and the power play came back out. This one had more structure, and looked better, but although Burrows had an amazing chance ( 72 shots and zero goals, and counting ) , the power play was unable to cash in this time.
Shortly afterwards though, ( and a possible undetected high stick may have been a bad break for the visitors ), the Richardson line did some great forecheck work, forced a turnover, and Zach Kassian beat Anderson low along the ice for a well deserved 2-0 lead.
But then the Senators manufactured a break. Off a face off win. on maybe their only sustained pressure of the period, Conacher fluttered a shot that Kevin Bieksa could not get with the glove, and it was 2-1, on a goal neither goalie was going to have a chance on.
Stanton then took a late penalty, and the Sens, while giving up a great shorthanded chance that Higgins should have cashed, managed to get the tying goal on a shot from Karlsson that Eddie Lack maybe should have had. It was along the ice, and even with the screen, it was a saveable puck. But it wasn't, and the game was suddenly tied.
In a game where the Canucks were outshooting the Sens 11-4, had them on the ropes, the Sens got off the mat, took the next 6 shots, scored the next 2 goals, and tied the game up.
The Senators came out strong to start the second, and Lack redeemed himself with some good saves. His best might have been on a shift where Daniel Sedin got injured ( clean hit by Methot ), and Bieksa made a tremendous block on the rebound.
The Canucks looked like they would go on a power play shortly afterwards, but the referees got it wrong, and made the wrong call, calling Hansen for embellishment when he was dragged down at the line. It opened up the game with the teams four on four, and Ottawa had another great chance blocked on a shot right from the slot by Zibanejad.
The Canucks looked to have stabilized the pressure though, and had some chances, until a odd man rush, with Ceci jumping up. resulted in a goal to make it 3-2. The Sens were full value for the lead. The goal may not have been Lack's fault, but it brought out the "We Want Lui" chant from the fans. Never mind that the Sens turnaround was abetted by the sagging of the entire team. No matter that those same fans were chanting "Edd-ie" just a couple of days before. Tough position, goaltender in the NHL !
Simply put, the Canucks were standing around more than the Sens in the second period ( and the last 6-7 minutes of the first ). The Canucks looked to be struggling a bit with the disjointed lines brought about by the Daniel Sedin injury, but that is no excuse.
The Sens had a chance on a Condra shot, where the refs once again acted got it wrong. Colin Greening came into the blue paint as Lack was covering it up, popped Kassian with a gloved shot, and the Kassian reply was the only call. It was the wrong call. Period.
The penalty kill was excellent though. The Sens barely got a sniff on the power play. But afterwards, wow. Cody Ceci got a shot off that went off Garrison, and off both posts. It was about the 5th post that Eddie was helped out by, and it should have been 4-2. The Canucks had a tremendous start to this game, but that was all by the wayside after the Senators push back.
( While I enjoyed Elliotte Friedmann, rightfully, taking the petulant fans to task for the way they were "LUUUUUing" Lack when he touched the puck in the second, I didn't watch the rest of their little CBC coffee klatch. The Raptors were on, and when Kevin Weekes started with the "I tolda so", it looked pretty predictable. I did agree with Elliotte however... ) I strongly believe fans should be able to do what they want, especially when they are paying hard earned dollars, but I would prefer we support the guy in, rather than create more angst. We do love the "back up" in Vancouver though, even the best goalie in team history !
The intensity of the game picked up considerably in the third, and it was Methot and Neil at the heart of it. Methot hit Kassian off the opening faceoff, and that was fine, but the Canucks did not like it. Then Chris Neil acted like a pussy ( sorry ladies, only word that fits ) and a goof, clowning around after taking a penalty with Sestito for being a goof instead of just dropping the gloves. The clowning was indicative of the Sens suddenly being back on their heels though, and reacting with the desire to play a more thuggish style to start the third.
Ryan Kesler was the author of the Canuck push back though, as he dangled, pushed, and had about 3 scoring chances on his first two shifts. Moer four on four play after a Burrows drive at a puck in the net. The extra ice didnt help this time though, as the game stiffened up, this time with the Sens only rushing off the turnover, and the Canucks pressing to tie the game.
The Canuck press versus the Sens dumping pucks out and playing like Norway or Austria at the Olympics. The Canuck struggle to score versus the Sens collapsing to their own net...who would win out?
Maybe the best chance for the home team was Sestito , alone in front, who was robbed by Anderson.
Well, one thing about the desperation is that the Canuck defensemen were forced to pinch, and that was resulting in odd man rushes. Lack was solid when he had to be though, and after he made a great glove save on one of those rushes, the Canucks got a power play when Gryba high sticked Kesler ( who was in the middle of everything in this game for the home team, and their best player ).
With only 5:49 left, this power play was obviously important. The first unit was unable to do much of anything, then, with only 24 seconds left, Richardson took a horrible slashing call to kill the chance. The canucks managed to kill it off, and there was 2 minutes left to get anything out of this one.
Unfortunately, the Canucks, while pressuring hard, gave up a 2 on 1 on the empty net, when an Edler pinch was unsuccessful. The Canucks deserved a bit better out of this game, but lets face it, the Senators were the better team in the second period, which is where they won this game.
The drama afterwards, of course, will be about the goaltender selection. Perhaps Luongo would have had one of those, but who knows? Lack alone did not lose this one. That is unfair in a team game. The Canucks lost this one with a bad second period, and teh Senators won it with a great middle stanza themselves.
Some final thoughts. Lay off the coach, goaltenders, and everyone else Canuck fans. Hindsight is always 20 / 20, and while I get the frustration ( I share it, this season has been frustrating ), I hope that we can rise above the negativity. Booing the rookie 'tender was his picture is up on the screen is "bush league". We're all unhappy with the way things are going, but come on. That was some weak tea.
Bring on the deadline. With almost every star on the team either, supposedly, unhappy, on their way out of town, it is going to be one unlike any other. While I have my doubts Ryan Kesler is going anywhere, this deadline should be one hell of a ride.
I am still a Luongo fan...always will be. Even if he is , ( maybe, there have been a couple rumours to that effect ) on the trade block again. But I still, after this result, think that the talk of him being "insulted" today is specious. It's a team game, and he is a team player. Coach Torts played a hunch, and it didn't work. It doesn't mean it was wrong to start Lack. He had let in 1 goal in 2 games going in.
Get well soon Daniel Sedin. While you were not scoring, this is a huge loss.
I'll try to add it later, but search out Torts' presser after this one. The man stood up to every question on the goalie question, answered them smartly and honestly, and owned it.
"PLAYOFFS? PLAYOFFS!!!!??? I just hope we can win a GAME !!!! " Thank you for that Jim Mora.