VANCOUVER -- Roberto Luongo waited 10 long months to redeem himself to the Vancouver Canucks faithful.
The beleaguered goalie was primarily blamed for the Canucks' failure in the seven-game Stanley Cup final against the Boston Bruins last June. It didn't matter how many wins or how many shutouts he registered in the regular season, only the playoffs now matter for Vancouver and its fans.
Unfortunately for Luongo, he was the one of the few Canucks who was prepared to make amends on the opening evening of the 2012 playoffs. But his 35-save performance was wasted because the visitors in white were the much better team in the Los Angeles Kings' series-opening 4-2 victory at Rogers Arena on Wednesday.
Sure the Canucks were missing their top goal scorer in Daniel Sedin, who after two days back on the ice appears to have suffered a setback in his comeback from a late-season concussion.
He didn't skate at all on Wednesday, and much to the chagrin of the secretive Canucks, his Dad mentioned in an interview back in Sweden that his son was experiencing headaches again.
On the ice, the Canucks were suffering from an identity crisis. They advanced to the seventh game of the Cup final last spring because of their superior skill. But now they wanted to be tougher. They wanted to be the Western version of the Bruins.
That's fine. But as pesky as the Bruins were in their skate to the title, they still tried to be disciplined, even though they averaged 15.8 penalty minutes a game in the playoffs.
The Canucks were called for 27 penalty minutes in the series opener against the Kings. True, there were a couple of those annoying delay-of-game penalties for flipping the puck over the glass, but 27 minutes is way too much time spent in the penalty box. They were shorthanded for a whopping 12:36, including 68 seconds at a 5-on-3 disadvantage. The two players brought in by Canucks general manager Mike Gillis -- Byron Bitz as a free agent and Zack Kassian via a trade -- were not effective.
All they did was take a couple of undisciplined boarding and charging penalties.
Bitz's boarding penalty midway through the second period on Kings fourth-liner Kyle Clifford, who eventually left the game with a head injury, was a five-minute major and game misconduct.
The Kings did not score during the five-minute advantage, but they also didn't look too energetic late for a stretch in the second period after Bitz mistake and in the final 20 minutes when Dustin Penner scored the game-winner with 3:14 remaining.
"We killed a lot of penalties and wasted a lot of energy," Luongo said.
Canucks forward Alex Burrows said that he and his teammates watched a little of the Flyers-Penguins game and some of the Predators-Red Wings game earlier in the day and noticed how tight the referees officiated the proceedings. Yet, they went out and committed mental mistakes, took too many penalties.
"We have to be smarter and better," said Burrows, who gave his team a 1-0 lead despite the fact that the Kings were the better team in the opening 20 minutes.
Burrows was rocked late in the game by the Kings' rugged forward Mike Richards. If there is a player that has enjoyed success at this time of the year even though he plays on the edge, it is the 27-year-old Richards.
He barely made a ripple with his new team in Los Angeles with only 18 goals and 44 points in the regular season. Then, to add a little more pressure, the Philadelphia Flyers received big opening playoff games from Brayden Schenn and Jakub Voracek, two of the players Philly got back in trades for Richards and Carter.
But there were Richards and Carter, combining to set up Penner for the winner. There was Richards checking in with three points.
The Canucks? They got the goaltending, but up front they were searching for an identity.
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