ST. PAUL, Minn — When the Minnesota Wild scored their third goal early in the second period, many couldn’t help but wonder if Roberto Luongo would get his first chance to play here in three years.
He didn’t. Luongo stayed on the bench, another game head coach Alain Vigneault refused to play one of his aces. You have to wonder how long it can last.
The Canucks are on an ugly 12-game run in which they’ve won three times. Cory Schneider has started eight of those games.
They are obviously a team in need of something. Maybe it’s a few Luongo starts in a row.
But before you go all-in on Luongo, consider he’s lost two in a row, and one of those was against Calgary. And that was the least embarrassing loss of the two.
Ask yourself, would Luongo have had Zach Parise’s shot off the odd-man rush just 24 seconds in? Doubtful. Would he have got a pad on Jason Zucker’s tip-in while the Wild winger took up residence on the goal’s porch? Probably not.
And could Luongo actually have stopped Jared Spurgeon’s one timer on the Wild power play?
OK, he would have had that one. For sure.
Though Schneider is 2-3-3 in his past eight, he is not the reason the Cancuks have been losing. The problem, however, is this: He hasn’t been the answer either.
In six of those eight starts, Schneider has been beaten for the first goal of the game.
That wouldn’t be a problem a couple of years ago, but this Canucks team isn’t built to come back every night.
“You can afford to give up a goal or two but if you continue to do it, it becomes harder and harder to get yourself back in the game,” Schneider admitted. “I think we need to get out on top and really focus on having good starts to games.”
On Sunday, Schneider made some terrific saves. Three of them were on Devin Setoguchi. One was a massive glove save in the second period from 10 feet out right before Chris Higgins scored, cutting the Wild lead to 3-1.
He got him again not long after, when Setoguchi had another wide open chance.
And the Canucks carried the saves to get within one early in the third. But from that point on, they were playing with a razor thin margin.
When Parise scored the fourth goal, it was game over. You could point to just about every Canuck on the ice for that one, including the goalie. Schneider couldn’t seal the post and Parise slid the puck basically through his pad.
“I felt like I had it sealed, but he just out-muscled me, he just jammed it in,” Schneider said. “It somehow snuck over the line. He gets a lot of goals that way, just hacking and trying to stuff pucks.”
Hey, it happens. The real McSchoftie of the night was on the third goal, where Schneider had time to get down but the puck hit his pad and went right under it. It’s not the first time this year.
“It just went under my pad again,” Schneider said. “There’s been a couple this year which have snuck under there. It’s something I have to figure out with Rollie (Melanson) and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Earlier in the season, when the Canucks had six-point lead in their division, they had the luxury of allowing one of their goalies a few starts in a row, even if he was struggling. They don’t have that now.
With the win, the Wild tied the Canucks with 28 points. But because Minnesota has more wins, they get the tie breaker. It pushes the Canucks to sixth, with the same number of points as the eighth place St. Louis Blues. The Canucks are just four points out of 13th.
“We pride ourselves on being first, we’ve been there a lot over the past few years,” Schneider said.
“No, we’re not happy about it. We don’t want to be chasing teams late in the year. But we can’t panic yet. It’s not time to panic. It is time to get some urgency and win hockey games.
“You have to have guys to step up and replace (Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa). You have to find the guys who will make our team harder play against.”
Imagine if that’s Luongo.