CHICAGO – If anybody knows how to deal with a rough night at the United Center, it's Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo.
Just two years ago, he was riddled with seven goals by the Chicago Blackhawks in a 7-5 loss to end a conference semifinal series in this building – which included Patrick Kane's first career hat trick.
Afterward, Luongo was in tears as he met with reporters because the loss ended Vancouver's season.
Tuesday night, the Hawks riddled Luongo again, 7-2, in the Madhouse on Madison – but instead of reddened eyes, Luongo showed nothing but resolve as this Western Conference Quarterfinal shifts back to Vancouver with the Canucks leading 3-1.
"Obviously, we'll forget about this one and the good news is I don't have to sit on this for five months before we have to play 'em (again)," he said, referring to the Hawks ending Vancouver's playoff run prematurely in each of the past two seasons. "I felt good. I was seeing the puck well. So, I'm just going to put it behind me and move on. (I'm) not going to beat myself up over it."
It's a good thing Chicago came into the game in such a precariously bad position. Otherwise, it'd be much harder to shake off had it happened in a closer series. Luongo has played some good games in the United Center, but it always seems to have the potential to become a house of horrors for him.
Tuesday night was no different.
It started out OK after a strong first period, but the night got progressively got worse and eventually turned into another forgettable game for Luongo after allowing four second-period goals and one in the third before getting pulled in favor of backup Cory Schneider.
"I made a lot of good saves in the first period, I thought similar to the other night, and then the second they kept on pushing and they got few goals," Luongo said. "I would've liked to have made one or two more saves, but like I said, it wasn't a lack of confidence. I felt good the whole game and I'm seeing the puck well, so I'll just keep working on what I'm doing."
The good news for Luongo and the Canucks is that the series is still heavily in Vancouver's favor – still leading 3-1 and happily heading back to Vancouver looking to snuff out the defending Stanley Cup champions' season.
"If I told you that I felt shaky tonight or wasn't seeing the puck well, maybe I would be a bit concerned, but I felt good the whole game," Luongo said. "I mean, the last time I checked we're up 3-1 in the series. We've done it all year and we're a team that's overcome a lot of things. There's no point in beating ourselves up over it."
Luongo did appear to have hurt himself at the end of the first period while contorting his body to make a great save against Bryan Bickell. The puck appeared to get trapped between the pad and the left goal post before coming free and getting cleared, and Luongo had stretch backward to stop it.
Afterward, he skated off the ice gingerly. He returned to start the second, but quickly allowed two goals in the first 5:35 of the period. He also allowed goals to Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik in the last 5:15 of the second to make it 5-1 and the rout was in full effect.
Many were surprised that Luongo also started the third and again gave up a quick goal within the first five minutes – unable to slide over fast enough to get in front of a one-timer by Patrick Sharp from the left circle.
That's when Schneider came into the game. Luongo, who was spared the embarrassing mock cheer as he left thanks to a skirmish at the other end of the ice, said he is not dealing with an injury.
"(I'm) totally fine … 100 percent," he said. "It kind of just cramped up a little bit, but went away afterwards."
Some are now wondering, however, if he'll be fine mentally after being left out there to start the third and the rout quickly continuing. None of the Canucks seemed worried, though.
"He's a professional athlete," Canucks captain Henrik Sedin said. "He's been through this before and he usually never gives up ... and you have to realize, too, the team in front of him didn't play good enough. We gave them a lot of chances. We can't blame him at all. He saved us in the first and parts of the second. It's up to the guys in front of him."
Defenseman Kevin Bieksa echoed Sedin's thoughts.
"I don't think you can say it's Luongo's struggles," he said. "I think you can say it's Canucks struggles. You can't pinpoint tonight's loss on one guy. I don't think anybody's happy with their performance, so we struggled tonight as a team."