VANCOUVER, B.C. -- Only a select few words had to be spoken inside the Vancouver Canucks' dressing room around 9:45 p.m. local time Tuesday night. The task at hand was pretty self-explanatory.
Game 7. Overtime.
"This is what legends are made of," Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo said, referencing what was spoken inside the relatively quiet room. "Game 7, OT. It doesn't get any better than that. Somebody is going to become a hero."
Take a bow Alex Burrows. It was you.
Burrows capped off one of the craziest emotional roller-coaster nights in the Canucks’ 40 NHL seasons in Vancouver by ripping a knuckling slap shot over Chicago goalie Corey Crawford's right shoulder 5:22 into overtime. Vancouver's 2-1 victory set off a wild celebration on the ice, in the stands and in the streets while relieving an insane amount of tension from the entire city.
The win sends the Canucks into the Western Conference Semifinals, where they will face the Nashville Predators. All Vancouver had to do was withstand a near-miraculous comeback from the Blackhawks, both in the series and in Game 7.
Chicago became the seventh team in NHL history to force a Game 7 after losing the first three games of a series, but the fourth to lose the final game after winning Games 4-6. The Hawks also trailed 1-0 heading into the final two minutes of regulation Tuesday, but Jonathan Toews scored a game-tying shorthanded goal to send this one into overtime.
"It's great, a great feeling," said Burrows, who also scored the Canucks' lone goal in regulation. "It felt almost like it was a dream, but guys jumped on me and I couldn't breathe, so I knew it was right."
Burrows had a chance to give Vancouver a 2-0 lead with a penalty shot just 21 seconds into the third period, but Crawford stoned him with a low blocker save. Toews made that miss matter when he scored with 1:56 left in regulation.
Burrows then gave the Blackhawks a golden chance to win it when he went to the penalty box 24 seconds into overtime for holding Duncan Keith in the offensive zone. However, the Canucks allowed only one shot during the penalty kill -- and Luongo slid across his crease to stop Patrick Sharp from the backdoor for the most important save of his season … and perhaps his Canucks career.
Two shifts later, Burrows intercepted Chris Campoli's clearing attempt, dropped the puck to his feet and went in on Crawford to score the winner.
"I just dropped it and I knew the puck was rolling, so I wanted just to make sure it was going on net," Burrows said. "Those are tough shots to stop for goalies. It knuckled right through his blocker and went in -- and then I got hit by a few guys."
As much as Burrows was a factor, the night truly belonged to the goaltenders.
Luongo, who was under more fire than the prime minister heading into Game 7, made 31 saves in what can be called the defining moment of his Canucks' career because of who the opponent was and the history they had with him and his teammates.
Chicago knocked the Canucks out of the playoffs in each of the last two years, and knocked Luongo out of Games 4 and 5 of this series. Luongo started Game 6 in the trainer's room as Cory Schneider's backup, but he was forced into action early in the third period and said that was the best thing for him because it allowed him to just play and not think.
He did admit the last couple of days were hard on him emotionally because he knew the criticism was out there.
"He was huge," captain Henrik Sedin said. "When we play as a team, he's a top-notch goaltender. When we're playing like we did in Games 4 and 5, it doesn't matter who we have back there, he's going to let in a lot of goals. There has never been any doubt about (Luongo) in this dressing room, and he showed tonight that he's a big goalie."
Crawford might have had a better night than Luongo despite losing the game.
He made 36 saves including some of the most spectacular variety, such as his ridiculous glove save on Ryan Kesler with 5:04 left in the third period. He had just made saves on Christopher Higgins and then denied Burrows on the rebound, but he kept the puck out of the net by snaring Kesler's shot out of the air while he was lying flat on the ice.
"That was one of the greatest goaltending performances in a clutch situation that you're going to see," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "I got to commend him. The kid was great. He gave us a chance."
Crawford, who was close to despondent after the game, said what everybody already knew -- that he saw the puck well all night long.
"I was just trying to keep us in it," he added. "I felt we would get our chance and eventually bury one. We did and had a lot of momentum heading into overtime. We had some chances in overtime and (Luongo) made some big stops. They got a lucky bounce, came streaking into the slot ... it's tough to lose.
"I don't think anybody would have thought we'd push it all the way to Game 7 in overtime. I still think we could have won that one. It's tough to swallow right now."
Burrows gave Vancouver a quick lead 2:43 into the first period when he hammered home a one-timer from the slot off a terrific feed from Kesler. It stayed that way until Toews finally came through with his first goal of the series, swatting home a rebound while he was on his knees in the slot area.
"The play he made on the tying goal, not a lot of guys in the League can do that," Luongo said. "That's why he won the Conn Smythe, was the MVP in the Olympics. It's a massive play by him and that's why he's the leader of the team."
Luongo regained his status as one of the leaders of the Canucks at just the right time. They needed a big performance out of him and he delivered. They needed a hero to step up and Burrows was the guy.
So what if it took until overtime in Game 7 to finish off the Blackhawks. It's all history now.
Nashville awaits. It's only Round 2.
"It's nice, I gotta be honest, but it's only the first round and that's the crazy thing," Luongo said. "We'll take this one tonight, enjoy it but we know we've got another huge series coming up here."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
1 - 0 VAN
1 - 1 Tie
1st OT Period
2 - 1 VAN
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