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The Goods: Edged by Cats

Monday, 01.9.2012 / 10:30 PM PT / Features
By Derek Jory
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The Goods: Edged by Cats
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There’s a first time for everything.

The Vancouver Canucks dropped a 2-1 decision to the Florida Panthers Monday night at the BankAtlantic Center in what was a disappointing outing for the Canucks following a monster win over the Boston Bruins just two-days prior.

The loss, Vancouver’s fourth in the last 10 games, was Roberto Luongo’s first career regulation defeat at the hands of the Panthers. He came in sporting a 4-0-1 record against Florida, a team he spent five seasons with and is still the career leader in wins (108) and shutouts (26), including 3-0-1 with a 1.68 goals-against average since he joined the Canucks before the 2006-07 season.

Luongo made 20 saves in losing just his third game in regulation in his last 15 starts since returning from injury in early December.

Another streak came to an end in the loss as Vancouver hadn’t lost to Florida in the Sunshine State since October 20, 1999 - that’s a span of 11 games in which the Canucks dominated the Panthers to the tune of 8-0-1, with two ties.

Dale Weise opened the scoring 3:11 into the first period off a great individual effort from Manny Malhotra to the Canucks a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes.

No one could explain what happened in the second and it was sure tough to watch.

The Panthers scored twice and took hold of the game, the Canucks answered with just two shots of their own.

“We only had two shots in the second, so that wasn’t nearly good enough,” said coach Alain Vigneault. “That second period enabled their team to believe that they had a
chance to win and when a team starts believing they’re in a game and they have a chance to win, sometimes good things happen.”

In the third it was too little, too late, especially with the likes of Weise, Malhotra, Mike Duco and Cody Hodgson standing out on offence, as they did all game, in place of Daniel
and Henrik Sedin, Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows.

Vancouver’s stars showed up for the main event in Boston Saturday, so there was bound to be a let down for the once-a-year meeting with Florida.

Not that the players are using that as a crutch.

“I think we’ve got enough veteran leadership in this room that we don’t have those letdowns,” said Dale Weise, now behind three goals this season. “It’s just one of those things where you don’t execute and things don’t go your way and tomorrow’s another day.”

Expect an improved bounce back effort Tuesday night in Tampa Bay against the Lightning. Judging by the looks on the faces of the players post-game, this loss stung.

“We got two shots in the second period and that’s not good enough,” assessed Henrik Sedin. “We had to keep it simple tonight, but we didn’t do that, we tried the tougher
passes and the tougher plays.”

Added Daniel Sedin: “We’ve got to be able to find the emotion to win this game, it was there for us and we let is slip away. It’s unfortunate.”


It was a win-win situation for Alain Vigneault.

All it would have taken for the Canucks coach to be behind the bench at the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game in Ottawa was a victory over the Panthers Monday night.

Vancouver failed to deliver for its bench boss.

Now, instead of taking part in his second consecutive all-star game (he was co-coach at the 2011 game alongside Philadelphia Flyers coach Peter Laviolette, they guided Team Lidstrom to an 11-10 win over Team Staal), Vigneault will take some time off before preparing the Canucks for a full steam ahead second half of the season.

Had Vancouver won on this night, Vigneualt would have joined forces with John Tortorella of the New York Rangers in an effort to guide their squad to a victory; Boston coach Claude Julien and his assistants from the Bruins will coach the other team, they earned a spot by virtue of winning the Stanley Cup in 2011.

With the recent exchange of words between Vigneault and Julien regarding Brad Marchand’s hit on Sami Salo in Vancouver’s 4-3 win over Boston last Saturday, there might have been more emotion to this friendly game than usual.

Now we’ll never know.

Vigneault’s spot will have been filled by San Jose’s Todd McLellan by virtue of the Sharks having a greater points percentage than the Canucks.


There’s a running joke that part of playing hockey in Florida means wearing flip-flops to the rink and hitting the beach as often as possible.

Turns out, it’s true.

Chris Higgins, a member of the Florida Panthers for 48 games during the 2010-11 season, wore flip-flops to the rink and he spent a lot of his off-ice time at the beach. Wouldn’t you?

Many Canadians, including myself, think a little less of our brothers in the Southeast Division sometimes because they play in hotbeds that don’t traditionally remind us of hockey.

They don’t live and breathe it like we do, and that’s different, so it must be wrong.

I’ve been corrected, Florida’s hockey scene is simply misunderstood.

“It’s pretty much summer all the time here and if we were home, I was pretty much at the beach all the time,” said Higgins, who was traded from Florida to Vancouver at the trade deadline last season.

“But that’s not all hockey in Florida is. Obviously it’s a lot different than playing in Canada, that’s for sure. I thought the fans were way better than what I was expecting. If we were a better team, there would have been some better fans, but I enjoyed playing in this building and I enjoyed being a Panther, it was a fun time in my career.”

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