Before exit, Luongo left lot to be desired
By Barbara Matson, Globe Correspondent
It took the Bruins 8 minutes and 35 seconds to take down Canucks Roberto Luongo last night in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. That’s all the time they needed to score three goals and banish Luongo to the bench for the fourth time in the 2011 playoffs, sending the Bruins on their way to a 5-2 victory and a trip to Vancouver for a decisive Game 7 tomorrow night.
Entering the game, Luongo actually had a shutout streak going against the Bruins after a 1-0 win in Game 5 in Vancouver, but that streak ended at 65:31 when Brad Marchand collected a chip off the right wall from Mark Recchi and beat Luongo on the short side with a wrist shot at 5:31 of the first.
It was not a good goal, and instead of polishing off the first Stanley Cup in the team’s 40-year history, the Canucks were backpedaling. They continued to lose ground. Luongo couldn’t handle much, giving up three goals on eight shots: Marchand’s, Milan Lucic’s wrist shot between his pads, and a power-play slap shot from Andrew Ference.
“Honestly, I had a good feeling all day,’’ Luongo said. “There were not extra nerves or anything like that. I was excited to play, we had a chance to win the Cup. Nerves is part of playing in the playoffs. I think we had nerves every game, pretty much.’’
Luongo, one of three Vezina Trophy finalists along with the Bruins’ Tim Thomas and Pekka Rinne of the Predators, gave way to Cory Schneider, the Marblehead native and former Boston College star. Luongo couldn’t even connect with his backup when they passed on the ice, trying to tell Schneider to “shut the door.’’ But Schneider later said the noise in TD Garden was too loud and he couldn’t hear what Luongo said.
The game started badly for the 32-year-old Luongo, who has alternated sloppy and choppy with strong and stingy as the series has bounced from Vancouver to Boston. While he allowed only two goals in three victories at home, he’s given up 15 at TD Garden in three losses.
“I mean, they came out flying obviously, and got some goals and I obviously didn’t make enough key saves to weather the storm early,’’ said Luongo.
He knew Marchand’s goal should have been a save.
“I was there,’’ Luongo said. “It was a good shot but at the same time I’ve got to make that save, so I mean, he put it where he wanted it, but you know, I’ve got to make a save there.’’
Then came Lucic, taking a backhanded drop pass from Rich Peverley and ripping a wrist shot between Luongo’s pads at 6:06. The fact is, Luongo got caught wandering to the edge of the blue paint. It was Thomas’s aggressive style, playing outside the paint, that got Thomas in trouble in the Canucks’ 1-0 win in Game 5, Luongo said.
“I’ve had some success on the road all year,’’ Luongo said. “I mean, I know that before the series even started I enjoyed playing in this building. So, I’m not going to make any excuses. It just didn’t happen for me, obviously, in all three games. I’m just going to move on right now and we have one game at home to win a Stanley Cup. We’ve had some success there as a team so that’s what we’re looking forward to right now.’’
Given a power play when Alexander Edler was called for boarding at 7:55, the Bruins threw the knockout punch, Ference’s goal at 8:35, a slapper from the left point. Luongo then took a seat.
The taunting cheers rained down from the seats: “Lu-on-go! Lu-on-go!’’ He insisted he didn’t listen.
“I mean, I’ve got to believe in myself, right?’’ said Luongo. “That’s a big component of bouncing back and playing a good game. So, we’re going to put what happened tonight behind us as soon as possible and get ready for what is going to be a dream as far as playing in Game 7 in a Stanley Cup Final.’’
In stark contrast, Thomas made 36 saves, boosting his bid for the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, though it won’t mean much to Thomas without the Stanley Cup to go with it.
Schneider had 10 stops to close out the first, allowing only Michael Ryder’s goal at 9:45. He continued to pick up the pieces efficiently and finished with 30 saves and words of support for Luongo.
“We’ve seen it time and time again,’’ said Schneider. “Everyone is down and out on him and he comes back with some of his best games of his career.’’
The Canucks, the NHL’s best team in the regular season, nearly got bounced in the first round by Chicago. In that series, Luongo was pulled twice and then left on the bench for Game 6. When Schneider was hurt in that game, Luongo had to go back in, and he returned to close out the series with an overtime win.
So, Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said he is not worried.
“I don’t have to say anything to him,’’ Vigneault said. “He’s a professional. His preparation is beyond reproach and he’s going to be ready for Game 7.’’