BOSTON -- When it comes to bouncing back from bad performances, most goaltenders are pretty good at it. As a Vezina Trophy finalist, however, Roberto Luongo hasn't had too many off nights this season.
During the regular season, Luongo allowed more than four goals only twice -- he allowed six goals on 18 shots against the Minnesota Wild in October and five in an overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings in December. He responded in the two games that followed by allowing just three goals on 69 shots.
In the playoffs, Luongo played his way out of the lineup in the first round against the Chicago Blackhawks after giving up 10 goals on 40 shots in Games 4 and 5 of that series. Coach Alain Vigneault turned to backup Cory Schneider for Game 6, but he suffered an injury that thrust Luongo into the game for the third period and overtime.
Luongo stopped 12 of 13 shots in relief, but took the loss. He delivered in a big way in Game 7, stopping 31 of 32 shots in a 2-1 overtime victory that started a stretch where Luongo went 11-3 with a .943 save percentage through the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final.
That hot streak came to a crashing end in Game 3, when the Boston Bruins scored eight goals on 38 shots in a blowout victory that cut the Canucks' lead in the best-of-seven series to 2-1. So not only is Luongo lacking experience this season in sub-par performances, but he's also looking to respond after his worst showing since he allowed eight goals to the Los Angeles Kings in April 2010.
"He didn't have many of those in the regular season. We were pretty tight all year long," Schneider said. "You can just look to the Chicago series. After all that turmoil, he came back and played a great Game 7. I'm sure he'd be more concerned if he was off his game. I thought for the most part they were just bad luck or toward the end of the game we were just running out of position and not helping him out a lot.
"I think he understands that and has a short memory. He'll be fine."
As is a goalie's prerogative on game nights, Luongo didn't speak with the media Wednesday morning. But he spoke with reporters Tuesday at Boston University about the difference between allowing an abundance of goals in a loss and losing a low-scoring game.
"The score doesn't really matter. We're in the playoffs. It's all about winning a game, right?" Luongo said. "As a team, we've got to look at it as we lost a game. We just got to get back to doing the things we do. No matter what the score of the game is, we have to keep playing our game, not deviate from our game plan.
"Whether we're trailing by one goal or up by one goal, we have to play our game."
The knock on Luongo for most of his stellar career has been his inability to win big games. That appeared to go out the window when he won the gold medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and exorcised his Blackhawks demons with his Game 7 victory during these playoffs.
But for the first time in a long time during the postseason, things stopped going his way in Game 3. He nearly allowed a goal to Dennis Seidenberg during the third period when he fired a shot from his blue line that almost squeaked through Luongo's pads.
Luongo's performance in Game 4 could be career-defining -- if he puts Game 3 behind him and delivers a solid showing, all will be forgotten. But if he has a repeat performance of what happened in the Chicago series, the critics will start to ask if Schneider needs to make another appearance.
Luongo sounded ready Wednesday. Everyone in Vancouver will be holding their breath to see if he gets up off the mat Thursday.
"Like I said before the series started, I waited my whole life to be here," Luongo said. "I'm not going to put my head down. It's time to get back to work. Obviously (Game 3) was disappointing for all of us. We have a great opportunity. We're in the Cup Final. Even though there are going to be some tough times, you have to be in the moment and focus."
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