If only October was a couple of days shorter.
Maybe then Roberto Luongo would have got his paddle down on the second period game winner which was as hard as soft-served ice cream melting on river rock in August.
He got a handle on just about everything else.
Luongo didn’t lose Wednesday’s game. He actually kept his team in it, as the Canucks faded noticeably in a game they were never ready for.
Luongo made consecutive, brilliant pad saves late on Pavel Datsyuk and Justin Abdelkader. The second was a sublime stop where he read the play perfectly and closed off the backdoor, where Abdelkader was staring at an open net as he took a pass that cut through the slot.
As if that wasn’t enough, Luongo stoned Todd Bertuzzi by sliding along the goal-line with less than four minutes left, keeping the Red Wings lead at one goal.
The saves at least gave the Canucks a chance at another late comeback, but a Daniel Sedin hooking penalty with less than two minutes left ended their chances in a game the Wings won 2-1.
Luongo was actually one of the best Canucks Wednesday, just not on Tomas Tatar’s 27-foot dribbler, which put the Wings up 2-1 when it rolled through his five-hole with 1:02 left in the second period.
It probably wasn’t the best time for a bad, McSofty goal, given the Canucks generally played tired and sloppy — and that was before they ran out of gas.
They were in desperate need of goalie perfection to win their fifth straight, and Luongo isn’t quite there yet.
Also, Mike Babcock, Team Canada’s head coach, had one of the best seats in the building. That had to needle Luongo just a little when he got beat for the winner.
Lucky for Luongo then, the Tatar goal wasn’t all his fault.
Sure, he could have battled better to pick up the puck. But there in front, screening him, was Chris Tanev, just hours after John Tortorella had lavished the young defenceman with praise.
Before the pre-game skate Wednesday, Tortorella said no player had picked up his system better. And, wouldn’t you know it, Tanev was in position to block Tatar’s shot in a 1-1 game that lacked the usual verve of Wings-Canucks.
But when Tatar uncorked it, Tanev went flamingo, raising one foot. Tanev said he didn’t want the puck deflecting to a Detroit player with no one in front of Luongo.
“I was frustrated, it’s the game-winning goal and I have to do a better job of letting Lui stop that,” Tanev said.
Luongo never saw it until it went in, and let everyone know about it by flailing down the ice during the aftermath.
“I feel like that’s the way it’s been going,” Luongo said. “I feel sharp. I feel on top of my game. But there’s always something that happens in the game that puts a damper on the night.”
Often forgotten is the transition to Tortorella’s system has probably been most difficult for Luongo. The Canucks have gone from a team traditionally in the bottom third of the NHL in blocked shots to one that was third in the league Wednesday.
After his first preseason game, Luongo let it be known he was embracing the new focus on blocking shots.
But he said that while making one stern point: “You better block it, because if you don’t I won’t see it,” Luongo said in September.
The game had some compelling billing before faceoff. It featured two of the best lines in hockey. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg together on one side and Ryan Kesler with the Sedin twins on the other.
You knew they were going to play a lot, and they did, as both coaches looked for the hard matchup.
The Datsyuk line may have dominated play, especially early and late. But it was the Sedins who scored.
Ryan Stanton set them both up with a seam pass that cut through the Wings defence. Henrik then found Daniel near the goal-line and his sharp-angled shot totally fooled Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard.
The goal put the Canucks up 1-0 14:12 into the first. Daniel Alfredsson tied it 11:37 into the second.
© Copyright (c) The Province