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Despite struggles, Luongo gets Game 5 start

Thursday, 06.09.2011 / 10:43 PM / 2011 Stanley Cup Final - Canucks v Bruins

By Dave Lozo - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Despite struggles, Luongo gets Game 5 start
Roberto Luongo was shelled for 12 goals in Vancouver's two losses in Boston, but coach Alain Vigneault made it clear that he'll be in goal for Game 5 on Friday
VANCOUVER -- Alain Vigneault could have played coy Thursday with his starting goaltender for Friday night's Game 5. Instead, he made sure to let everyone know that Roberto Luongo is still his man.

"Roberto is the guy," Vigneault said. "He's my guy, and he's playing. It's that simple."

Vigneault had every right to make it complicated after Luongo allowed 12 goals in Games 3 and 4 against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. Cory Schneider replaced Luongo early in the third period of Game 4, raising the possibility that Schneider could take the reins for Game 5 -- much as he did when he got the start in Game 6 against the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round after Luongo faltered earlier in that series.

Luongo allowed nine goals in Games 4 and 5 against the Blackhawks and was yanked from both games. Despite the similar scenario with the Bruins, Vigneault has no intention of making a goaltender switch this time.

"I just felt at that time, with Chicago, it was a special situation," Vigneault said. "The fact we had lost twice to them before in the playoffs and felt we needed to change momentum a little bit. My gut at that time told me that putting Schneids in was the right thing to do."

Luongo bounced back in that Blackhawks series to win Game 7 in overtime with a 31-save performance. He'll be drawing on that experience to help him in the Stanley Cup Final.

"In the first round, this was pretty much the same situation," Luongo said. "It's the Stanley Cup Final. You have to think about the goal. It's 2-2, and it's a two-out-of-three and we have home-ice advantage. That's how you rise above it. We have a great opportunity tomorrow to get up 3-2. You can't dwell on what's happened in the last couple games because that's what can affect you for tomorrow night. If you put it behind you and start fresh tomorrow night, you'll be fine.

"You've got to use past experiences, that's what it's for. We obviously all remember that series and the ups and downs we went through and the adversity that we faced. We came in and rose above it at the end of the day and it made the victory so much sweeter."

"Roberto is the guy.  He's my guy, and he's playing. It's that simple."
-- Alain Vigneault

Perhaps playing at home will be the elixir that cures what ails Luongo. As a Vezina Trophy finalist, his numbers are excellent. But the difference between how he plays at home and on the road is stark.

At Rogers Arena this season, Luongo was 21-7-4 with a 1.90 goals-against average and .937 save percentage; away from home, he was 17-8-3 with a 2.34 GAA and .917 save percentage.

Not coincidentally, the Canucks were the League's best team at home this season. As long as they don't drop another game there this season, the Stanley Cup will be theirs.

"We're excited about the opportunity that's in front of us," Vigneault said. "We are one of the last two teams playing for the Stanley Cup Final, playing with home-ice advantage in this great city with these great fans. It doesn't get much better than this."

If playing on home ice restores the Canucks' confidence, they may also restore their lead in the series.

"I think if you ask anybody on our crew, we're not happy with the way we played last two games, so, we're all pretty upset with ourselves and our performances," Luongo said. "At the end of the day, we're two wins away from reaching the ultimate goal, so I don't think it's a time for us to be putting our heads down or to not have any confidence.

"I think we're close and we want to make sure that we all bring our 'A' game tomorrow night."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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