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Gold-medal echoes reach Luongo just in time
Question of the Day
Game 7s tend to be unforgiving affairs, and when the puck dropped to start the overtime period against Chicago, Vancouver’s most-excellent season, and perhaps the future of the coach and who knows how many players were swirling down around the drain.
The Blackhawks, who bounced the Canucks from the playoffs the previous two years, had already clawed their way back from a 3-0 series deficit, then scored to tie Game 7 with less than two minutes left in regulation. Now, just 24 seconds into the extra period, they were on the power play.
Chicago’s Patrick Sharp was on the doorstep of Roberto Luongo’s goal with most of the net open. He fired fast and low, but Luongo slid faster and just low enough to smother the opportunity. Some five minutes later, Vancouver’s Alex Burrows stole a clearing pass along the right boards just inside the blue line, and beat Chicago’s Corey Crawford high on the stick side for the game-winner.
“Obviously, we didn’t make it easy on ourselves,” Burrows said. “But we stuck with it and I think it’s even better getting it done this way.”
When someone ran that quote past Luongo, he had to stifle a nervous laugh.
“I mean,” Luongo began, then paused, “it’s nice to win Game 7. You can’t beat that for sure. It was tough for a few days, but we stayed with it.
“There’s no better feeling in the world,” he added a moment later, “with all the ups and downs in the series.”
Frankly, the last real “up” anybody in the Rogers Arena could remember when it mattered was little more than a year ago, when Canada beat the United States to win the Olympic gold-medal game _ with Luongo in the net.
Sure, Vancouver had compiled the best record in the NHL in its 40th anniversary season and looked like the league’s best team steaming out to a 3-0 lead over the defending Stanley Cup champions. But then Chicago put the hex back on Luongo, forcing Canucks coach Alain Vigneault to yank him in Games 4 and 5 in favor of backup Cory Schneider, then sit him down in front of a TV set in the dressing room for the first two periods of Game 6.
“I think the best thing that could have happened to me was probably going in late in Game 6,” Luongo said. “I didn’t have to think, just go out there and play, just make saves.”
He made 31 on Tuesday night, drawing confidence from each one and resolve from that Olympic final. Game 7 unfolded in similar fashion to that one _ a late USA goal sent it into overtime _ and the same hush that blanketed all of Canada in that moment was back for Vancouver’s fans.
Not Luongo. The longer it stretched on, the more familiar it felt.
“The whole thing was pretty much the same game. They scored late, made a couple of good saves in OT and boom, we get a huge goal,” he said.
By Andrew P. Napolitano
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