Roberto Luongo faced his old teammates less than two weeks after the Vancouver Canucks traded him back to the Florida Panthers, but the affair wasn't exactly the Hatfields versus the McCoys.
This game lacked hate, and until late, this game had all the emotion and excitement of flipping through your television channels to find an interesting program to watch on a Sunday morning.
But what did you expect when two floundering teams clash this late in the season? The Panthers playoff hopes crashed months ago. The Canucks playoff possibilities hang by a skate lace, despite their 4-3 shootout win over Luongo in South Florida.
What did you expect when their remains plenty of fondness between Luongo and his former teammates? He wanted out. His teammates didn't blame him. Some wish they could have joined him.
As a result, there was no bulletin board material leading up to the game. Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa was his usual dry-wit self with a quip about how he was going to exploit Luongo's weaknesses.
The most curious thing Luongo said on Saturday was when he was asked if he'd still be with the Canucks today had he played in the Heritage Classic on Mar. 1, when Vancouver head coach John Tortorella elected to go with Lack instead.
"It's tough to say," said the 34-year-old Luongo, who still has eight seasons and $35.2 million left on his contract. "It had something to do with it. It put the wheels in motion. I couldn't get a trade done for a year and a half, so I don't know how it happened in two days.
"Definitely something weird was going on there when I got back from the Olympics."
Luongo beat his old teammate Cory Schneider, now with New Jersey, on Friday.
He chatted with Eddie Lack, his replacement in Vancouver, in the hallway before the game and on the ice during the pre-game warmup.
Luongo also tapped Lack on the pads as their paths crossed on their way to their respective dressing rooms after the second period expired.
"I challenged him to a fight, but he said 'no'," said Lack, when asked what he said to Luongo during the warmup.
"It was fun for it to go to the shootout," said Luongo, now 2-2-1 in Florida after his 29-save shootout loss. "Jensen made a great play. Perfect shot, bar and in so that was the difference. Eddie made some big saves for them."
This game pitted the league's 25th-best offence (Florida) versus the 29th or second worst. Bieksa made the best save of the game with a soccer-style skate save midway through the third period.
The two points moved the Canucks to within three points of the Dallas Stars and the final playoff spot in the West. But Vancouver is down to its final dozen games, while the Stars have four games in hand.
On the plus side for Vancouver was the work of veteran Alex Burrows and 21-year-old Nicklas Jensen. Burrows has busted out of his lengthy slump with three goals and six points in his last four games.
Jensen's NHL career is only seven games old, but these are exciting times for him. He has scored in back-to-back games and put home the only goal in the shootout.
Lack made 26 saves and was good enough to get the two points over his former battery mate, but he made only his 32nd NHL appearance and still has some growth to undergo.
"Good for Lack, Jensen, it's nice to grind out this win. We scratched and clawed for those two points," said Tortorella, who also praised the work of Travis Green, the head coach with the Canucks AHL-affiliate, the Utica Comets.
"Travis and everyone in Utica have done a tremendous job. Big difference between when Jensen went there and where he is now."
On the negative side, the Canucks surrendered two power-play goals to the Panthers, who are dead last with the man advantage this season.
Still, Vancouver managed to improve to 8-18-3 since the calendar flipped to 2014. But the Canucks know time is running out.
At least, this outing against Luongo is now behind them, even if it was an impassive reunion.
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