BOSTON — Although Roberto Luongo is receiving much of the blame for Vancouver's two-game meltdown in Boston during the Stanley Cup final, his teammates refuse to allow the goalie to take the heat alone.
Most of the 12 goals he allowed in just more than five periods were not his fault, defenseman Kevin Bieksa said Thursday. Luongo will rebound for tonight's Game 5, captain Henrik Sedin promised.
If only the Canucks had provided that much support to Luongo on the ice, maybe they wouldn't be headed home with their series lead evaporated.
"These were the same questions Boston got after they lost (the first) two games, and they found a way," Sedin said. "We need to do the same thing."
No matter what Vancouver says, Boston's Tim Thomas has outplayed his fellow Vezina Trophy finalist. Luongo allowed seven goals among the last 23 shots he faced in Boston.
"Last time I checked, it's 2-2 in the series. So I don't see why we should be depressed," Luongo said. "We're in a two-out-of-three Stanley Cup final. If I was told that before the start of the year, I mean, where do I sign?"
Thomas, meanwhile, allowed just one goal in two home games. For the series, he has stopped 141 of 146 shots.
"I think we're giving Thomas too much respect," Bieksa said. "He's leaky. Pucks go through him. We've seen it all year. We just need to put more pucks on him."
The Canucks' problems in front of Luongo stem from injuries — even if, as all teams do during the playoffs, they refuse to disclose them.
Center Ryan Kesler, the leader of their defensive line, has played with a fraction of his usual disruptive force while apparently nursing an injury. Puck-moving defenseman Christian Ehrhoff has an injured shoulder preventing him from shooting the puck with his usual vigor.
And those are just the players healthy enough to suit up. The Canucks' biggest loss has been Dan Hamhuis, the versatile veteran defenseman who hasn't played since hurting himself delivering a check in Game 1.
Without Hamhuis and suspended defenseman Aaron Rome, the Canucks offense was hampered in Game 4 by an inability to move quickly up the ice in transition. Vancouver's aggressive offense is built on its cadre of mobile, puck-moving defensemen. But it no longer has the manpower to do everything it desires.
"We didn't expect to sweep these guys," Bieksa said. "We have to focus on the positives and can't hang our heads. If we come out the next game and score three goals in the first (period), no one will remember these games."
Lightning will not replace ill assistant
TAMPA — Lightning assistant coach Wayne Fleming will have a job waiting for him when he recovers from brain cancer treatment even if he cannot rejoin the team for the start of next season, general manager Steve Yzerman said.
"Everything is subject to change. But right now, my intention is to leave (the position) open," he said. "When Wayne is healthy enough to rejoin the coaching staff, he'll rejoin the coaching staff."
Fleming, 60, is rehabbing in California, where he had surgery and is undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
"He's progressing," Yzerman said. "He's seen some positive progress, but it's slow."
As for his plan to wait for Fleming, Yzerman said, "It's the right thing to do. We're playing a man short right now. We'll be fine."
Drury out? The Rangers plan to buy out the final season of Chris Drury's contract, New York's Daily News reported. Doing so would make the center an unrestricted free agent and save $3.3 million against the salary cap. Drury, who signed a five-year, $35.25 million contract in July 2007, scored just one goal in 24 games this season, which was interrupted by a broken finger and arthroscopic knee surgery.
Canadiens: Andrei Kostitsyn signed a one-year deal worth $3.25 million. The wing, who could have become a restricted free agent, had 20 goals and 25 assists this season.
Leafs: Goalie James Reimer signed a three-year deal worth $5.4 million. Reimer, 23, who could have become a restricted free agent, went 20-10-5 after being called up Jan. 23.
Times staff writer Damian Cristodero contributed to this report.