- Associated Press - Monday, June 13, 2011

BOSTON (AP) - A shaky Roberto Luongo ended up farther out of his crease than even a roaming Tim Thomas likes to go.

All the way to the bench.


Luongo, who took a swipe at the Boston goalie’s wandering ways after the Vancouver Canucks won Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals, was pulled for the second time in the series just 8:35 into Game 6 on Monday night after the Bruins took a 3-0 lead.

He was replaced by Cory Schneider and Boston went on to a 5-2 victory that forced a decisive Game 7 in Vancouver on Wednesday night. Coach Alain Vigneault didn’t hesitate to start Luongo after he was pulled in a 4-0 loss in Game 4, and the Vezina Trophy finalist responded with a 1-0 win that gave the Canucks a 3-2 series lead.

But what will Vigneault do now that Luongo is struggling, just as he did after three solid games in the opening round against the Chicago Blackhawks?

Luongo has been sharp at home in the finals with two 1-0 shutouts and a 3-2 win in overtime. But in Boston, he lost 8-1 in Game 3 as Schneider stayed on the bench all game. And then lost Games 4 and 6, and was pulled in both.

Vancouver won Game 5 after Thomas, also a Vezina finalist, skated out of the crease toward Kevin Bieksa as the Canucks defenseman shot from the right point. The puck went wide but ricocheted off the backboards to Maxim Lapierre to the left of the crease. Thomas got back in time to block the shot, but the puck rebounded into the net with 15:25 to go.

Afterward, Luongo leveled a jab at Thomas‘ uncommon tendency to stray from the crease to cut down angles.

A shot like Lapierre’s is “not hard (to stop) if you’re playing in the paint,” he said. “It’s an easy save for me, but if you’re wandering out, that’s going to happen.”

The next day, Thomas didn’t speak to the media, but Bruins coach Claude Julien had a decent comeback.

“The guy that made the comment, I’m not quite sure how many he let in,” Julien said. “I think you guys have a good idea, so I don’t think (Thomas) is going to lose sleep over that.”

At that point, Luongo had allowed 14 goals while Thomas had given up just six.

Even the fans got into the assault on Luongo on Monday night. One held a gold poster, reading, “Hey, Luongo: How is that ‘playing in the paint’ thing working out 4 u?”

The goalie even had to endure the common hockey sing-song taunts as he sat at the end of the Vancouver bench in the second period.

“We want Luongo,” the fans chanted.

Others simply offered a drawn-out, “Lu-on-go.”

The stay-at-home goalie had a career-best 2.11 goals against average in the regular season and 2.16 in the playoffs before Game 3.

Then things went bad, just as they did in the opening round against Chicago where he won the first three games. But he was pulled from the next two and didn’t even start Game 6, although he came in after Schneider experienced cramps. The Blackhawks, the defending Stanley Cup champions, won them all.

But in Game 7, Luongo allowed only one of Chicago’s 32 shots to get by him, and Vancouver won on Alex Burrows’ overtime goal.

On Monday, the scenario repeated itself as Luongo allowed goals to Brad Marchand, Milan Lucic and Andrew Ference in the first 8:35. Schneider came in before play resumed after Ference’s goal, and 70 seconds later, Schneider gave up another goal to Michael Ryder.

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