Canucks blow lead, lose Heritage Classic

By Hosea Cheung, 24 hours Vancouver


The retractable roof was closed. The 54,194 in attendance was, for the most part, short on energy. And the benching of Roberto Luongo, which dominated headlines throughout the weekend, set a negative tone heading into Sunday's big game.

But those issues aside, the Heritage Classic — the first-ever hockey game held at BC Place — was still a disappointment for the Vancouver Canucks. They couldn't get the two points, and in the end, that's all that matters, right?

Instead, the team blew an early two-goal lead to fall 4-2 to the Ottawa Senators in what was billed as a rematch of the 1915 Stanley Cup final and the last one of six "outdoor" NHL games this season.

Novelty match or not, the struggling hosts — decked in vintage maroon Millionaires uniforms — needed the victory against their Eastern foes. After all, that was the rationale behind starting goalie Eddie Lack over Luongo — news that broke Saturday, which set off a collective fury among Canucks fans online. 
And while Lack was put into a difficult position by the coaching staff, he couldn't back up their decision either in a 24-save loss. Afterwards, the dejected goalie faced a barrage of questions, from hearing the reaction of fans to now becoming part of another goalie controversy on this team.

"I was trying to focus on what I could control," Lack said. "It's their opinion … and I'm OK with it. I'm trying to play the best I can out there.

“I was disappointed we lost the game. I know there is a lot of talk around this game but I'm just trying to shut all the other part out."

Head coach John Tortorella said the decision to start Lack over Luongo was his, and if he had to make the call again, he wouldn't change a thing.

"For this game, the way Eddie was playing, I thought it was our best chance to get these two points," he said. "Lui is pissed, he's not happy. He's proud, I get that, I like the guy … but this is part of the business and I know it's a very sensitive thing here. I have to make decisions which I think gives our team the best chance to win."

The defeat was Vancouver's ninth in their last 10 games, as they continue to be on the outside looking into a playoff spot. To make matters worse, Daniel Sedin was helped to the locker room in the second period after being hit awkwardly into the end boards by Ottawa's Marc Methot. He didn't return.

The first 10 minutes of the game was all Vancouver.
Jason Garrison's bomb from the point and the first-ever NHL goal scored at BC Place got the party started. But even more impressive, the defenceman's seventh of the season came on the power play. The home team doubled the lead not long after as Zack Kassian beat Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson for his 11th of the year.
But the Sens came storming back.

Clarke MacArthur and Erik Karlsson both scored before the period was up — one on a deflection, the other through a screen from the point. 
Then, Cody Ceci gave the visitors the lead with the only goal in the middle frame, unleashing a round of "We want Lu!" chants from the Canucks faithful. Colin Greening added the empty netter.

"We got a two-goal lead and it seems we relaxed a little bit," captain Henrik Sedin said. "A lot of teams go through injuries, but it's a game we should have won. We got to defend the lead."

Vancouver heads onto the road for a pair starting Tuesday against the Phoenix Coyotes.

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