John Tortorella has been on his best behavior since taking over as coach of the Vancouver Canucks.
His team’s performance Tuesday night brought some of that old temper bubbling to the surface.
Jonathan Huberdeau scored the only goal in a shootout and the Florida Panthers beat Vancouver 3-2 to hand the Canucks their fifth straight defeat.
”Easily our worst game of the year. We didn’t deserve a point,” Tortorella said.
Having already lost four in a row, the Canucks came out flat against an opponent that has already fired a coach and endured a nine-game losing streak this season.
And while Tortorella didn’t have one of the postgame tirades he made famous during stints with the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers, he was clearly disgusted with the effort, especially in a first period that saw Florida carry the play and take a 1-0 lead.
”It’s lack of respect and we have no business (showing) a lack of respect to any hockey team,” Tortorella continued. ”In the situation we’re in going into tonight’s game, I just don’t know what we’re thinking as far as how we started the game.
”I can’t explain it.”
Shawn Matthias and Brad Boyes had the goals for Florida (6-12-4), which got 27 saves from Tim Thomas and has won three of four.
Jannek Hansen and Chris Higgins scored for the Canucks (11-8-4), who have six goals during the five-game slide. Roberto Luongo finished with 34 saves.
”I don’t think anybody played well. We looked lethargic at times,” Tortorella said. ”It’s disappointing and it starts from the beginning. You need to respect your opponent. We didn’t.”
Huberdeau beat Luongo with a nice backhand-forehand deke on Florida’s first attempt in the shootout. Higgins came closest to scoring for the Canucks, hitting the post behind Thomas on Vancouver’s final shot.
Like their coach, the Canucks were at a loss to explain the performance.
”They’re never easy. It doesn’t matter who you play,” Luongo said. ”As soon as you start thinking that, it’s game over for us. There’s no easy points in this league. You’ve got to perform every night. Every team’s going to give you a challenge.
”Especially given the fact that we lost four in a row, I don’t understand why we would think it would be easy.”
The 39-year-old Thomas, who took last season off to spend time with family and clear his head, was back at Rogers Arena for the first time since leading the Boston Bruins to a Game 7 victory over Vancouver in the 2011 Stanley Cup finals.
He signed with the Panthers in the preseason, joining a team that prior to Tuesday had not won a game in Vancouver since 1994.
”He’s won a Stanley Cup before, he’s won a Vezina, and that’s why,” Panthers interim coach Peter Horachek said. ”He’s confident (and) he’s got a smile on his face when he is doing it.
”He gives our guys confidence.”
The Canucks killed off a 2-minute penalty in overtime, with Luongo making a huge pad stop on Huberdeau. Vancouver then took control in the final minute of the extra period, but couldn’t find a way to beat Thomas.
Playing his second game after a long absence with a lower-body injury, Hansen jumped on a bad clearing attempt from Panthers forward Tomas Fleischmann and wired a shot past Thomas for his third goal of the season at 2:35 of the third period to snap a 1-all tie.
After the teams exchanged chances, Matthias tied it for the Panthers by ripping his third of the season past Luongo from the slot at 8:34.
Down 1-0 after a lackluster first period, the Canucks came out with some renewed intensity in the second and were rewarded when Higgins beat Thomas through a maze of legs for his seventh goal of the season at 3:26.
Thomas, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP with Boston in 2011, then made a big stop on Alexandre Burrows before Daniel Sedin sent a shot just wide.
Florida opened the scoring at 3:43 of the first period against the NHL’s No. 1 penalty killing unit. With Hansen off for goalie interference, Aleksander Barkov’s shot off the post bounced right to Boyes, who beat a down-and-out Luongo for his eighth of the season.
Burrows, yet to score in 11 games this season, had Vancouver’s best chance of the period but hit the post on a Florida power play with about 5 minutes to go.
”This clunker here, it just makes no sense to me,” Tortorella said. ”I think a team should be champing on the bit to get into a win column, but it was a total lack of respect. There are no easy games in this game. It’s a lesson learned and I hope we do learn from it.”
NOTES: Horachek took over when Kevin Dineen was fired Nov. 8. … Canucks forward Dale Weise returned to the lineup after missing 10 games with a lower-body injury. He took the place of David Booth, who has one goal and two assists in 13 games this season. … Luongo, who was with the Panthers from 2000-06 before being dealt to the Canucks, still ranks first among Florida goalies in wins (108), games (317) and shutouts (26). … The teams meet again March 16 in Florida.