THE CANADIAN PRESS
VANCOUVER — A clean-shaven Roberto Luongo walked through the airport Saturday as the Vancouver Canucks boarded an airplane to Chicago.
The playoff beard was gone. Time for a fresh start.
"Trying to change things up a bit," said the Vancouver goaltender, managing a weak smile.
Any change better be quick because time is running out.
The Canucks trail 3-1 in their NHL Western Conference semifinal series against the Chicago Blackhawks. They must fix what has gone wrong so far in the best-of-seven series before Sunday night’s Game 5 (8 p.m. ET), or their season will be over.
"We have to go win a game," said Luongo. "That’s our mindset right now."
Defenceman Shane O’Brien admitted the Canucks are in a deep hole.
"We have to lay it all on the line," said O’Brien. "We have nothing to lose now.
"We are in a situation where probably nobody thinks we can come back; the odds are we probably can’t. We are going to give it our best go."
If the Canucks hope to force a Game 6 Tuesday in Vancouver they have to stop taking penalties. They must keep their composure. They need some offence from their best players. And Luongo must play better.
Given what has happened so far, it’s a tall order.
Jonathan Toews scored three power-play goals Friday night as the Hawks rolled to a 7-4 victory. Massive Dustin Byfuglien had three goals, two on the power play, in Chicago’s 5-2 win Wednesday.
Vancouver has allowed 13 goals in the last seven periods. In the last two games Chicago has scored six power-play goals on 14 opportunities.
Of even more concern, the Canucks have let the Blackhawk agitators get under their skin, resulting in players like Daniel Sedin, Alex Burrows and O’Brien taking undisciplined penalties which have resulted in Chicago goals.
"It’s a matter of making sure we play for the crest in front of our jersey," said Luongo.
That’s a thought echoed by defenceman Sami Salo.
"Everybody needs to take a long, hard look in the mirror," said Salo. "We have to stay out of the box and be a lot smarter.
"If we take some penalties, we have to kill those penalties."
O’Brien blamed inconsistent officiating.
"It seems some nights they call it a little tighter than other nights," he said.
"Maybe that’s our fault for yelling at the refs during the season."
That brought a sharp retort from coach Alain Vigneault.
"All the penalties we took are penalties we deserved," he said. "Officiating has got nothing to do with it."
Any Vancouver improvement needs to start in net.
Luongo’s goals-against average of 3.27 and save percentage of .892 are the worst of any of the goaltenders left in the playoffs. At times he’s seemed distracted, swinging his stick at Hawks parked in front of his net.
Vigneault was blunt in his assessment.
"Roberto, and our team the last two games, we have been the second best team on the ice," he said. "This is a team game. The goaltender is a big part of it.
"I have a lot of faith in him and a lot of confidence. I know he’s going to do the job for us."
If Luongo was frustrated with his coach’s criticism, he hid it.
"Last night I thought maybe I could have been a bit better," Luongo said. "The first three games I felt good.
"There is traffic. I am stopping most of the first shots. A lot of rebounds are going in off scrambles."
Vancouver’s goal scoring has melted away like the snow on the North Shore mountains.
So far in the series, Byfuglien has scored as many goals as Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Burrows and Ryan Kesler combined.
Mikael Samuelsson scored seven times in Vancouver’s first-round victory against Los Angeles, but his only goal against the Blackhawks came during a 5-on-3 in Game 2.
The Canucks have come back from 3-1 series deficits three times in team history. The last time was 2003 against St. Louis. Vancouver also has not advanced out of the second round of the playoffs since losing in the final of the 1994 Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Canucks also have some bad memories from the last elimination game they played in Chicago. They lost 7-5 to the Hawks in Game 6 of last year’s conference semifinal.
Chicago’s Patrick Sharp said the Hawks better come prepared to play.
"These guys aren’t going to quit," he said. "We have a lot of respect for the way they play.
"They have a lot of offence. You can’t let your foot off the pedal for a minute. We have done some good things to get this lead. At the end of the day, that’s all it is, a lead. We haven’t won yet."
Vigneault said the Canucks have a chance to prove something to their fans, and themselves.
"I believe this group is ready for this moment," he said. "We are going to have to let our actions speak for themselves."
"I believe this is a good hockey team that can rise to the occasion. We have to go in there and win one game. That is going to be our focus."