VANCOUVER, BC – “LOU” “LOU” “LOU”
That was the chant early in the first game of this series between the Canucks and San Jose Sharks. Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo was spectacular in net in making heart-stopping saves that kept the Sharks at bay and the Canucks alive.
The problem was, Luongo needed to be that and more on Wednesday night. His defense was thin and passive and permitted the Sharks to swim unmolested through the slot and throughout the entire Canucks defensive zone.
“It gave me a good rhythm for the rest of the game” Luongo said on NHL.com. “But obviously when you end up losing, you always want to find a way to do more.”
A wild scramble in front of Sharks netminder Anti Niemi in the second resulted in the first goal of the match as San Jose’s Raffi Torres appeared to push the puck into his own goal. Kevin Bieksa was given credit for the marker with 7:34 left in the frame.
Four minutes later Logan Couture finally solved Luongo. On a powerplay, The Sharks moved the puck around the zone until Couture moved effortlessly into the high slot where he took a pass and had time to set up a writer that beat a screened Luongo.
“Louie played great early on,” San Jose captain Joe Thornton said of Luongo. “He made some great saves on the first power play, but we just stayed calm and kept going. We have some goal scorers that can finish. They did that tonight. It was a good effort to stay relaxed and wait for our chances to go in.”
Midway through the third Dan Boyle gave the Sharks the lead at 2-1 when he pressed the offensive zone off the blueline. Again, Luongo was left alone as the Canucks defense seemed to focus on the wrong opponent all night.
“It could have gone any other direction off their forward’s skate,” Boyle said. “It found its way through and I had pretty much an open net.”
Patrick Marleau finished the scoring late in the period
“It’s not like we got shelled in the third,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. “That being said, the only goal we scored they pushed into their net. We have to be better.”
In game one it was not a case of the Sharks shelling the opposition. It was more a case of the Canucks providing an open invitation to free skate in the defensive zone. Vancouver needs to hit someone, anyone to disrupt the flow in their zone and make room for a break out pass to relieve the pressure.
This was Vancouver’s fifth straight home ice playoff loss.
While Luongo was praised early by a full house, there were few left in the arena as the minutes ticked off in the end. A sea of empty seats could not have provided much incentive for the home side.
The question is ‘now what?’ Does Luongo need to pitch a shutout to get a “W”?
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