Unsettling Homecoming

Friday, 01.02.2008 / 11:57 PM / Features
By Sunny Dhillon
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Unsettling Homecoming
After watching his team try to come from behind for the better part of a month, Roberto Luongo was treated to something he isn’t used to Friday night: a lead. Three of them, actually. Unfortunately for his Vancouver Canucks, Roberto couldn’t hold all three.

Nathan Horton scored a goal and then added another in the shootout as his Florida Panthers knocked off a Vancouver team that never trailed 4-3 at the BankAtlantic Center.

The Panther victory ruined what, for a time, looked like it might be a happy homecoming for Luongo. Making his first start in Florida since being traded to Vancouver in June 2006, and with a boisterous section of Canucks fans cheering on his every save, Luongo turned aside 40 Panthers shots.

But he was second-best on this night, as Florida netminder Tomas Vokoun stopped 29 shots of his own, including five in overtime. His best came on a Markus Naslund penalty shot with 47 seconds to go in the extra frame.

Daniel Sedin opened the scoring with just nine seconds remaining in the first period. He took a cross-crease feed from brother Henrik and poked the puck into the empty cage to give Vancouver a 1-0 lead after twenty minutes.

Horton got his team on the board early in the second. He walked out of the corner and into the slot untouched before firing a quick hard wristshot past Luongo.

Henrik made it 2-1 Vancouver eight minutes later when he took a no-look turnaround pass from Markus Naslund and snapped it past Vokoun’s glove hand.

With Ryan Kesler in the box for goalie interference, Jozef Stumpel tied the game at two just 89 seconds later. Olli Jokinen delivered a no-look pass of his own, finding Stumpel all alone in the slot. Stumpel one-timed the puck past the blocker of a sprawling Luongo.

Mason Raymond gave Vancouver a 3-2 lead 1:42 into the third period. He poked the puck through the legs of Gregory Campbell, then darted around him and finished the play by beating Vokoun five-hole.

But Florida tied things up with just over six minutes to go. With Aaron Miller just stepping out of the penalty box, Panthers centre Stephen Weiss let loose a hard slapper from the circle that zipped over Luongo’s shoulder and into the Vancouver cage.

With the game looking destined for overtime, Daniel took a hooking penalty with just 1:17 left in regulation.

But his teammates bailed him out and were the better group the rest of the way, getting numerous chances on Vokoun in the overtime period.

Vokoun sprawled to stop a Ryan Kesler redirect from just inside the crease with 1:45 to play. Taylor Pyatt spotted Kesler going to the net and put the puck right where Kesler wanted it but Vokoun got his pad down.

It was much the same on the ensuing faceoff, when Henrik found brother Daniel walking through the crease all alone. Again, Vokoun got the pad down to turn Vancouver away.

After stripping Horton at the Florida blue line, Naslund had a glorious chance to give Vancouver the win with under a minute to play. Horton hauled the Vancouver captain down, leading to a rare penalty shot in overtime.

Naslund tried to let loose with a patented wrister into the top corner but Vokoun read it, stacking the pads to make the save.

Vokoun was even better in the shootout.

He stopped a Taylor Pyatt snapper aimed for the five-hole. Ditto for Alex Edler. And Vokoun stuck with Daniel’s deke every step of the way, eventually forcing the Vancouver forward to lose control of the puck.

Vokoun let loose a fist pump as he raced towards his teammates to celebrate.

In a game that was supposed to be all about the old Panther goaltender coming to town, it was the new Florida netminder who stole the show.

 


3 – Goals allowed by Roberto Luongo for the seventh time in his last nine games. In comparison, Luongo gave up three goals just twice during the entire month of December.

6 – Consecutive games with at least a point for Daniel Sedin. Daniel had a goal and an assist and led Vancouver with seven shots.

12 – Faceoff wins in 42 opportunities for Ryan Kesler and Henrik Sedin combined (29%). Kesler was particularly bad in the first two periods, when he went 2-for-11 (18%).

29 – Days without a regulation win for Vancouver.



The offense, as has been the case of late, wasn’t really the problem. It generated three goals, one of which came from a line without a Sedin on it. As in Tampa the night before, the Canucks had their chances; they just didn’t bury them.



The injuries to the blue line are really taking their toll, as Vancouver was guilty of numerous breakdowns throughout the night. Nathan Horton was left all alone on his second period marker, as was Josef Stumpel on the goal that tied it at two.



The PP was 1-for-4 but when Vancouver had a chance to ice the game early in the third, it couldn’t come through.

The PK was officially 5-for-6 but realistically it gave up two goals, as Weiss’ marker late in the third came with Miller just stepping out of the box.

Still, the PK did well to guarantee Vancouver a point after Daniel was sent off with just over a minute to play.