By Tim Rosenthal, Bruins Daily
Shawn Thornton’s return to face his former team for the first time since signing with the Florida Panthers was an event that was being hyped by the Bruins media for the last 48 hours. He got his video tribute, his standing ovation and his respect from the 17,565 in attendance at the TD Garden.
There was another player who is familiar with the TD Garden crowd – and not in a good way. That guy was lost in the shuffle in all the hype surrounding Thornton.
Who was he? None other than Roberto Luongo.
Unlike Thornton, Luongo has been the subject of taunts, ridicule and other forms of heckling since he was between the pipes with the Vancouver Canucks. And even though he now dons the Panthers’ jersey in South Florida, the reaction was still the same.
Luongo, who was traded from Vancouver to Florida at the trade deadline, is quite used to that reaction. That response, he claims, didn’t hinder him.
“I didn’t think it was that bad,” Luongo said following the B’s 2-1 win. “It was a long time ago, I don’t worry about that anymore and I think I’ve moved on. But it’s a fun building to play in, so I always look forward to coming here.”
There was something different about this matchup. For one, its the first of four meetings against the Bruins for Luongo, Thornton and company.
Another thing that was different? Thornton and Luongo skating on the same team. That’s something that was hardly envisioned a few years ago.
Here we are in 2014, and one thing is for sure, Luongo is happy to have Thornton as a teammate, as they hope to provide veteran leadership to the young Panthers squad.
“He’s been great since he’s got here,” Luongo said about Thornton. “He’s shown a lot of leadership and a lot of character, something that we needed. He’s been a big influence on the young guys, and he’s an important part of the team.”
Tuesday night in that first matchup of the 2014-15 season, Luongo played a very solid game and kept the Panthers in it. His save on Brad Marchand during the first period was one highlight that will be on tape for some time. That’s a far cry from his three appearances at the TD Garden in 2011 where he allowed 14 goals and was pulled in Games 4 and 6 of the series.
Yet, Luongo still can’t get the upper hand against the Black and Gold as Marchand’s overtime winner lifted the B’s to their first three-game winning streak of the season. On the other hand, as many chances as “The Little Ball of Hate” compiled, and as successful as he’s been in the past against Luongo, he still had difficulty getting pucks past the veteran netminder.
“He’s a big guy, and he fills up a lot of the net,” Marchand said about Luongo. “He seems to battle hard and cuts his angles down well. He’s been one of the top goalies in the league for a long time.”
“Anytime if I go into a game and there’s a goalie that I score on more than others, I always feel confident in that situation,” added Marchand, who’s highlight reel goal in overtime gave him his fourth goal in his last three games. “You kind of hope at the same time that luck will be on your side, but I try not to be overconfident, but at the same time it’s something you can use to your advantage.”
As much as they try to shrug off the hoopla, Roberto Luongo versus the Boston Bruins will always be intertwined one way or another.