Spector on NHL: A night Luongo will never forget

Roberto Luongo and the Canucks were lit up for five goals in 3:35 of the third period Saturday night by Edmonton. (CP/Ian Jackson)
April 29, 2013, 1:06 AM

Daniel Sedin was speaking before Game 48 of the season and his theory of the Canucks evolution was, at that moment, still sound.

“We’ve been through everything,” he declared. “Nothing is going to surprise us.”

Of course, some 10 hours later, the Canucks would experience something very new. And, yes, more than just a few people around this team actually WERE surprised at what befell goaltender Roberto Luongo Saturday night in Edmonton.

Playing behind a preseason version of the Vancouver Canucks – Daniel Sedin, Alex Burrows, Alex Edler, Jason Garrison, and Dan Hamhuis all did not dress, and Henrik Sedin played but a single shift – Luongo dutifully held the fort through the first 50 minutes in Edmonton, as the Tom Sestitos, Frank Corrados and Cam Barkers did their level best to get Luongo a win in what very well could have been his final start as a Canuck.

Then all hell broke loose.

Luongo and the Canucks were lit up for five goals in 3:35 of the third period by Edmonton in an eventual 7-2 loss. Alain Vigneault did not call a time out, nor did he see fit to feed third-string goalie Joe Cannata to the Oilers attack, and by the time it was over Jerred Smithson would be seen impersonating an actual scorer, sniping one past Luongo from 12 feet out.

Luongo was left to face the barrage, while most of the rest of Vancouver’s good players were in the press box eating popcorn. The entire situation oozed of a lack of respect for the best goalie this franchise has ever seen.

It wasn’t right, for a guy who has put the team first the way Luongo has this year.

And as the hats flew, and Nail Yakupov typically over-celebrated a meaningless hat trick in a meaningless game, Luongo – judging by Luongo’s body language – appeared to be seething.

“We hung him out to dry,” winger Jannik Hansen said of Luongo, to the Vancouver Sun. “There’s no excuse for that. I feel bad for the guy.”

“We kind of became unraveled,” admitted defenceman Kevin Bieksa.

That the regular season should end on this particular note for Luongo is less than fair. He has been, of course, the consummate teammate this season, whose selfless acceptance of his lot behind Cory Schneider has proven everyone wrong who suspected the two could not co-exist with Schneider the No. 1 and Luongo the No. 2.

Since January, Luongo had made sure his disappointment did not stir discontent inside the Canucks dressing room, only cracking slightly when the trade deadline passed and his general manager failed to move him.

“I’d scrap it if I could right now,” Luongo said of his contract that day. “It sucks.”

He thinks a 12-year, $64-million deal “sucks?”

How about being left out on the line behind a glorified minor league lineup against a bunch of cocky kids? Being left in goal for … all … seven … goals … against an Edmonton team that hasn’t had a thing to celebrate, so they celebrated this one like it was Game 1 of the playoffs, not game No. 48 of another lost campaign in The Big E.

“He has put his heart and soul into this the whole year,” Henrik Sedin said after the game. “He has been very good about everything… He is going to bounce back and I’m sure he is going to forget about this one and move on. We have got bigger things going forward.”

There is no doubt that Luongo will move on. But forget?

We do not believe for a second Roberto Luongo will ever forget the night of April 27, 2013 at Rexall Place in Edmonton.

Luongo walked out of Rexall without speaking to the media, a rarity that we’ll chalk up to a guy who couldn’t promise not to utter something that would get the Canucks playoff run off to a controversial start.

This Canucks team has been without true controversy throughout the season, as it stared down a mid-March challenge by the Minnesota Wild to calmly capture its fifth straight Northwest Division title, and it doesn’t need any now.

They are no longer a prohibitive favorite, just as Luongo is no longer treated like a starter would be. But the Canucks could well beat San Jose in Round 1 and the hockey world would not bat an eye.

What if Schneider’s “body injury,” as Alain Vigneault calls it, is worse than we are led to believe? Or if it acts up after a playoff start or two?

In that case, Vigneault will nod to Luongo, and expect his goalie’s ‘A’ game.

We’ve no doubt he’ll get it. Begrudgingly.

Now, if Vigneault asked Luongo for a ride home on a rainy day? He’d be lucky if Luey tossed him bus fare.

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