- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 14, 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. Again.

But Vancouver’s inconsistent goalie didn’t plan to dwell on his latest journey to a loss too long. He was already looking forward to the cross-continent trip back home.

“There’s one game for the Stanley Cup, so you can’t hang your head now and feel sorry for yourself,” Luongo said after the Boston Bruins forced a seventh game with a 5-2 win over the Canucks on Monday night. “That would be the worst thing I could do.”

Luongo, who took a swipe at Thomas‘ wandering ways after the Canucks won Game 5 of the finals, was pulled for the second time in the series just 8:35 into Game 6 after the Bruins took a 3-0 lead. He was replaced by Cory Schneider.

But coach Alain Vigneault still believes in the goalie who backstopped Canada to the gold medal in the 2010 Olympics in the same building where the decisive game will be played on Wednesday night.

“He’s going back in the next game,” Vigneault said. “I don’t have to say anything to him. He’s a professional. His preparation is beyond reproach, and he’s going to be ready for Game 7.”

Luongo already has bounced back once in the series. He lost Games 3 and 4 in Boston, 8-1 and 4-0, and was pulled from the latter. But he responded with a 1-0 win at home on Friday that gave the Canucks a 3-2 series lead.

“I’ve got to believe in myself, right?” Luongo said. “That’s a big component of bouncing back and playing a good game. So, we’re going to put what happened tonight behind us as soon as possible and get ready for obviously what is going to be a dream as far as playing in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.”

Luongo has been sharp at home in the finals with two 1-0 shutouts and a 3-2 win in overtime. In Boston, he’s been outscored 15-1 while in net.

“I’ve had some success on the road all year,” Luongo said. “Before this series even started, I said I enjoyed playing in this building, so I’m not going to make any excuses. It didn’t happen for me, obviously, all three games, so I’m just going to move on right now.”

Vancouver won Game 5 after Thomas 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.

But this time, after Game 6, Luongo praised Thomas.

“He played well,” Luongo said. “He’s played well all series and I’ve said that from the start.”

Even the fans got into the assault on Luongo Monday. 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. But until this year, he was 11-11 in his two playoff seasons and had never taken a team past the second round.

He struggled again on Monday, just as he 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.

“We’ve seen (Luongo rebound) time and time again. The biggest pressure was Game 7 against Chicago,” Schneider said, looking ahead to the final game at home. “He won a gold medal in that building and he’s been in these situations.”

On Monday, 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.

But the next time Luongo plays, he’ll be surrounded by friendly fans and a familiar net where he has been a winner _ against Chicago in Game 7, in the Olympics and in the Stanley Cup finals.

“It’s one game, winner take all,” he said. “I’ve been in those situations before. I know how to handle it. I’ll be ready for it.”



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