It didn’t take long for the Vancouver Canucks’ goaltending controversy to heat up again.
Cory Schneider, the netminder tagged as the club’s new starter, allowed five goals on 14 shots before getting the hook Saturday as the Canucks suffered an embarrassing 7-3 season-opening loss at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks.
“It doesn’t matter what market I was in,” Schneider said of being in the spotlight. “If I played this way, it would be unacceptable anywhere in the world. So I’m not too concerned about where I am right now.”
Schneider was pulled in favour of former No. 1 goalie Roberto Luongo after allowing a trio of goals — including two in 11 seconds — just over three minutes apart early in the second period.
“I’ve learned that, in a market like this, you have to be accountable and responsible, and you have to perform well in the crease,” said Schneider, who signed a three-year contract extension in the off-season. “Tonight, I didn’t perform well in the crease.”
Luongo, who is on the trading block after being displaced by Schneider in last spring’s playoffs, allowed two goals on 12 shots in relief.
Teemu Selanne, the NHL’s oldest player at age 42, had two goals and two assists to help make Schneider’s first season-opening start a short one.
Daniel Winnik added two goals of his own for the Ducks, while Sheldon Souray, Corey Perry and Kyle Palmieri also scored for the Ducks, who are looking to rebound after missing the playoffs last season.
“I wasn’t expecting to go in, but after the fifth goal (coach) Alain (Vigneault) just told me to get in there,” said Luongo, facing a large throng of reporters in the Canucks dressing room.
He was being greeted by a loud cheer and chorus of “Looo” as he entered the game at 6:37 of the second period with the Canucks trailing 5-2.
“I don’t even know how to describe (the reaction), to be honest with you,” said Luongo, who said after last season he would waive his no-trade clause if asked. “It’s part of the game. ... It was a fun moment.”
Luongo allowed both of Selanne’s goals that gave the Ducks 6-2 and 7-3 leads.
“I felt that I should have both of those goals,” said Luongo. “But, in general, I felt pretty good. I think I made some good saves. I was seeing the puck pretty well. If only (Selanne) could retire now, I’d be all set.”
Perry and Palmieri’s goals 11 seconds apart staked the Ducks to a 5-2 lead, and Selanne’s first of the night with just 13 seconds left in the middle period erased any further doubt.
“Obviously, it’s not the way we want to start of the year,” said Luongo. “It’s disappointing for everybody. The best thing to do right now is just learn and get better. We were a little bit sloppy at times.”
Dan Hamhuis, Daniel Sedin and Alex Edler had the goals for Vancouver.
Jonus Hiller made 26 saves to get the win for the Ducks.
Anaheim converted all three of its power-play chances, while Vancouver was good on 2-of-4 opportunities.
“I thought we had really good balance,” said Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau. “And at the beginning, I think that’s what you need to win, because you could see that both teams were pretty tired in spurts there.”
Vigneault declined to say who would start in goal for Vancouver on Sunday when the Canucks host Edmonton.
“I’m going to talk to my starting goaltender soon and they will definitely know before you know,” said Vigneault. “This game is about performance and at the time I pulled Schneids I thought it was the right thing to do for the team.
“We wanted to do well, obviously with this being our first game of the season, we obviously wanted to go out there and play a much better game for ourselves and for our fans. It didn’t go that way tonight. We’ll address some areas. We definitely have a few areas that we need to be much better at.”
The one-sided loss spoiled a festive pre-game atmosphere as NHL hockey returned to Vancouver following the lockout.
The work stoppage had no effect on Vancouver’s attendance as the Canucks drew their 409th consecutive sellout crowd.
Before the game, Vancouver general manager Mike Gillis thanked fans for their patience, support and loyalty, but did not apologize for the 119-day lockout.
Canucks captain Henrik Sedin made similar comments and vowed: “We’ll do our best to make this a season to remember.”
Time will tell whether the Canucks can deliver on that promise, but Luongo expressed confidence in Schneider.
“The kid’s got a tremendous amount of talent,” said Luongo. “I mean, I’m not worried about him at all. He’s so strong mentally that he’s going to have no problem bouncing back whatsoever. He’ll be ready to play whenever the next game is for him.”
Despite the loss, Luongo is enjoying what are supposed to be his final days with the Canucks.
“That’s the beauty of it,” said Luongo as his unexpected and extended stay. “You never know where it’s going to go or what’s going to happen next.”
Note: Selanne’s power-play goal in the second period gives him 249 for his career and ties him for third on the all-time list with Hall of Famer Phil Esposito.
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