Canucks’ special night overshadowed by Senators comeback, goalie controversy

VANCOUVER - All of the Vancouver Canucks' problems this season were on display in their 4-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators.

An inability to create offence; an inability to hold leads; injuries to key players, as Daniel Sedin left the game in the second period after an awkward hit along the boards (meaning Tegan & Sara were the only identical twins to escape BC Place unscathed); another two points squandered. They may have been dressed like the 1915 Vancouver Millionaires, but this isn't the comics. Just as there would be no mistaking Bruce Wayne's jawline under that mask in real life, try as you might to evoke a team from another era, there was no mistaking this year's Canucks.

Fortunately, all of this was overshadowed by the new problem the team created yesterday. Even during the game, the action seemed secondary to the goaltending controversy John Tortorella engendered when he decided to keep Roberto Luongo on the bench and give Eddie Lack his third straight start.

"I was told to start," said a despondent Lack after a game in which the hometown fans cheered and chanted for Roberto Luongo, then jeered the rookie backup as he was coming off the ice after the second. (You know you've made a mess of things when the fans in Vancouver are booing their backup goalie, let alone the immensely likeable Eddie Lack. But apparently that's where we are.)

It was a novice mistake by John Tortorella. Not as a coach, but as a coach in Vancouver, where a variation of Murphy's Law -- we'll call it Schneider's law -- is constantly in effect. Anything that can worsen the goaltending controversy, simply put, is going to.

In this game, it was the unlikely scenario of the Canucks blowing a two-goal lead. When was the last time they even held a two-goal lead to blow? It's been ages.

The Canucks opened the scoring on a powerplay goal, thanks to a Jason Garrison slapshot from the point. It beat a screened Craig Anderson cleanly.

Seven minutes later, Zack Kassian doubled the lead, getting free in the slot and sliding one five-hole on the Senators' netminder. At that point, it looked like the Canucks were going to run away with things, something that would have made most of the 54,194 in attendance very happy.

But the Senators stormed back, cutting the lead in half shortly thereafter, thanks to a Clarke MacArthur knuckler that deflected off Kevin Bieksa's glove. Two minutes later, Erik Karlsson erased the deficit, wristing the puck between Lack and the post.

When Cody Ceci scored the eventual game-winner midway through the second, Vancouver fans began to call for Luongo.

"We want Lu! We want Lu!"

At that point, it was clear that the Canucks had somehow managed to overshadow their own event.

A game-tying goal might have helped to refocus things, but Craig Anderson wasn't feeling charitable. "He got better as the game wore on," explained John Tortorella, and by the third period, he wasn't letting anything past him. He made 29 saves in the win.

Of course, he's hardly the goaltender anybody was talking about. Tortorella's first question in the post game presser, and most of the questions after that, were about the rationale behind starting Lack.

"He deserved to play this game," said Tortorella, explaining that Lack was always going to get the first start back from the Olympic break, and he's played well enough since to justify two more.

As for Luongo, Tortorella didn't mince words. "[Luongo] is pissed. He's not happy... but this is part of the business."

And considering the Canucks' current playoff race, Tortorella simply doesn't feel there's room to consider feelings anymore. That means benching players like Luongo and Jordan Schroeder for this once-in-a-lifetime game.

"I think it's special to everybody," he said. "[Schroeder] was upset. He came and saw me after the game. But I can't have a special night, and make a decision where I don't think I'm putting the best lineup for that particular night because it's special, when I have 21 games left and we're trying to get points."

"I can't do it to make people happy. I'm not going to."

If it's any consolation, it wasn't really an outdoor game anyway. For the 10th time in the last 11 second days of March, it rained in Vancouver, so the roof was closed. As outdoor games go, it was pretty indoors.

After the game, Jason Garrison was asked if the festivities would have been nicer with an open roof.

"It would have been nicer if we won the game," he said.