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Canucks want to finish Dallas off, know from history it won't be easy

Thursday, 04.19.2007 / 7:00 PM

Associated Press

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Canucks want to finish Dallas off, know from history it won't be easy
Dallas Stars vs. Vancouver Canucks

BURNABY, British Columbia (AP) - Trevor Linden knows not to look past a potential series-clinching win before getting it.

Three times during his career with Vancouver, Linden has seen the Canucks come back from 3-1 deficits to win a best-of-seven playoff series.

Linden was also part on the Canucks team that squandered a 3-1 advantage against the Minnesota Wild and lost the conference semifinal in 2003 after leading 2-0 in Game 7.

That's why Linden and some of the other Canucks veterans spoke to the team in the dressing room prior to practice on Wednesday. The Canucks have a 3-1 lead against Dallas in their first-round series and can eliminate the Stars on Thursday night.

"You just want to make sure guys understand there is a lot of hockey left," said the 37-year-old Linden, who scored the winning goal in Vancouver's 2-1 victory Tuesday night. "There is a lot of game left and we have to be at our best here to close it out."

Defenseman Willie Mitchell was on the Wild team that rallied to beat the Canucks four years ago.

"It's four (wins), it's not three," said Mitchell, who made a game saving play in Dallas by sweeping a puck out of the Canucks' net before it crossed the goal line. "The last one is going to be the toughest."

The Canucks endured a rollercoaster of emotions during the 2003 playoffs. They fell behind the St. Louis Blues 3-1, then regrouped to win the series. Vancouver then took a 3-1 lead in the series against Minnesota. At one point former Canucks forward Todd Bertuzzi told some Wild fans not to bother buying tickets for Game 6 because there wouldn't be one.

He was wrong, but the collapse taught Vancouver a lesson.

"You need to have that killer instinct," captain Markus Naslund said. "We're up now, we're playing at home and we have a good chance of finishing this series off."

The biggest difference between this year's Canucks and past teams is goalie Roberto Luongo, who has been near unbeatable in his first playoff appearance and seems to get stronger every night.

"I feel comfortable right now," said Luongo, who has a 1.49 goals-against average and leads the playoffs with a .950 save percentage. "I feel I'm in a groove right now and just want to keep it going."

Dallas' Mike Ribeiro knows his team needs to focus on one game at a time instead of having to win three in a row. Ribeiro was on the Canadiens when they rallied back from a 3-1 deficit to beat Boston in 2004.

"We played a simplified game and took it one period at a time," Ribeiro said. "Once you win Game 5, the pressure goes to them to close the series.

"You're just playing and they've got the pressure to finish it out. The thing is, you don't want to think about winning three games, you just worry about the next one."

Even though the Canucks are up, they could easily be trailing 3-1. Three of the games have been decided by one goal, two have gone into overtime - including the opener that Vancouver won late in the fourth OT.

Vancouver has been outplayed for long stretches. The power play is ranked last in the playoffs, having managed just one goal in 22 chances. The Canucks have also taken themselves off the power play nine times in the series by taking a penalty of their own.

The Stars are looking for some answers of their own. Dallas couldn't take advantage of a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:55 in Tuesday's loss.

The Stars' Mike Modano has yet to score in the series and didn't have a shot on goal in 24 minutes of ice time in the last loss.

Dallas has lost six consecutive home playoff games and was eliminated in the first round the last two seasons.

Still, Mitchell knows the Stars won't just give up and let the Canucks win.

"People react differently when they are backed into a corner," he said. "This is where we're going to see their best.

"Sometimes you will play well and the bounces will go the other way. Next thing you know the series is tied. There is no margin for error. The last one is always the toughest."

Linden played for the Canucks when they trailed Winnipeg 3-1 in the 1992 Smythe Division semifinal before winning the series. Vancouver trailed Calgary 3-1 in the first round of the 1994 playoffs, but won the final three games, all in overtime.

series schedule/results
DateScoreW. Goal
Apr 23 '07DAL 1 at VAN 4T. Linden
Apr 21 '07VAN 0 at DAL 2M. Modano
Apr 19 '07DAL 1 at VAN 0 - OTB. Morrow
Apr 17 '07VAN 2 at DAL 1T. Linden
Apr 15 '07VAN 2 at DAL 1 - OTT. Pyatt
Apr 13 '07DAL 2 at VAN 0J. Halpern
Apr 11 '07DAL 4 at VAN 5 - OTH. Sedin
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