Taking shots isn't the problem for the winless Vancouver Canucks. Stopping them is.
Roberto Luongo relinquished three goals on the first three shots he faced in the second period as the Canucks fell 5-3 to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night.
"Obviously, I didn't have a great game," Luongo told reporters afterward.
"We got ourselves into a hole early — kind of like in the first two games — and tried to come back. But it is tough to make comebacks in this league."
Luongo is off to a sluggish start this season, having failed to find the elite form that earned him a 12-year, $64-million US contract extension this summer.
The Canucks captain has surrendered 11 goals on 68 shots this season, including four goals on 12 shots in the loss to Columbus.
"He let in four goals," Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault said. "You don't need me to say any more."
"It is the least of my concerns. Roberto is one of the best goaltenders in the league and definitely one of the hardest workers in this league and he'll find his game as he always does."
Granted, Luongo could not be faulted on a first-period tally by Blue Jackets forward Antoine Vermette, who scored on a pretty three-way play that tied it 1-1 with 42 seconds left on the clock.
Feisty first period
Tempers flared in the first period when Rick Rypien and Darcy Hordichuk checked Blue Jackets forward Jared Boll along the boards, shaking him up. Hordichuk's hit was late and he was penalized for roughing but Columbus couldn't muster a shot on the power play.
"He is not good. Some kind of concussion right now and I'm sure the league will be looking at the hit." — Blue Jackets head coach Ken Hitchcock on the status of Boll
Vancouver later killed off a hooking penalty to Christian Ehrhoff and Henrik Sedin chipped in a rebound to open the scoring at 15:29. The Canucks nearly went ahead 2-0 but Steve Mason stymied them during a 5-on-3 that included Kevin Bieksa cranking a shot off the post and concluded with Antoine Vermette tying it at the other end on the counter-attack at the 19:18 mark.
"They played well early on and we came out with another slow start. But we can correct that." — Darcy Hordichuk on setting early tempo
But the next period was a completely different tale as Columbus scored three times on three shots in a 3:44 span to end Luongo's evening.
First, Kristian Huselius faked a pass into the slot and scored on a rising wrist shot high to Luongo's trapper side 2:07 into the second.
Then, Huselius circled in the offensive zone and fed a trailing Rostislav Klesa, who scored on a weak floater that fooled Luongo at 5:29.
Twenty-two seconds later, Nikita Filatov received the puck from Vermette and beat Luongo between the pads for a soft goal to make it 4-1.
"Obviously, Luongo is one of the top goalies in the league," Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash said. "[But] everyone is going to have an off night."
Luongo was benched in favour of backup goaltender Andrew Raycroft at that point, and Christian Ehrhoff and Willie Mitchell scored on slapshots from the point to trim Vancouver's deficit to 4-3 early in the third period.
But Canucks forward Mikael Samuelsson was penalized for hooking and Raffi Torres was credited with scoring on the ensuing power play to seal the deal for the Blue Jackets with 3:57 remaining.
"We dominated the first half of the second period and then we really sat back," Nash said. "We have to find a happy medium somewhere between there and how we finished."
'We battled hard'
Nash led the unbeaten Blue Jackets (2-0-0) with three assists, while Huselius, Klesa and Vermette had a goal and an assist apiece.
"We had tons of chances, we were moving it and and we were getting some good shots off," Nash said. "It was really fun hockey for us."
Steve Mason stopped 40 of 43 shots in the win.
"We battled hard," Vigneault said. "Their goaltender was real strong tonight."
Henrik Sedin opened the scoring for the Canucks (0-3-0), who have peppered opposing netminders with a league-high 120 shots in consecutive losses to Calgary, Colorado and Columbus.
"We haven't won yet so, obviously, we're making a few mistakes but we're generating a lot [of scoring chances]," Vigneault said. "We're not that far away."
Vancouver last opened a season with three straight losses in 2000-01.