CHICAGO – If the Vancouver Canucks want to start offering clinics on running a power play, they could probably charge as much as they want right now.
There might even been a few NHL teams willing to pay a hefty price, including the rival Chicago Blackhawks – who got a free lesson firsthand Sunday night by watching the Canucks torch the net for five power-play goals on six man-advantage situations.
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks didn't find the back of the net on any of their five power plays, which led to a dominating 6-2 win for Vancouver in front of 21,883 at United Center. The win also halted a two-game losing streak for the Canucks (7-7-1) – who'd dropped four of their previous six games and two of the first three on this six-game road trip.
"We haven't been good enough five-on-five to win games, but we know if we can play good five-on-five then our special teams are going to take care of business on most nights," said Canucks captain Henrik Sedin, who led the way with a power-play goal and three assists. "That's where we won the game, for sure, so it was good."
Chicago wanted some measure of revenge for an overtime loss last spring to Vancouver in Game 7 of a classic first-round series, but the Canucks wanted to end their current funk more. That's how it looked on the scoresheet as well.
The Blackhawks (8-3-3) took an uncharacteristic 10 penalties and several of them were of the needless, undisciplined variety. The Canucks made them pay often.
"This is a game where we showed why we don't need a big, tough guy," Henrik Sedin said. "We need to play hard, whistle to whistle. When they were doing the things they did tonight, we needed to score on the power plays and we did that."
Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo – who had a hefty 3.19 goals-against average coming into the game – picked up the win with a solid performance (38 saves). He also didn't let a suspect goal allowed in the first period off a bad-angle shot by Michael Frolik turn into a full-on meltdown – which has happened to him before in this building.
"I'd rather talk about the 38 other (saves) if you don't mind," Luongo joked afterward, when asked what happened on Frolik's shot from above the left circle near the boards. "It was unfortunate. I made some big saves early and it was a bit of a knuckler there that, obviously, I should have had. It was disappointing, but I was feeling good and seeing the puck well. I just stayed with it and we got some big goals right off the start of the second (period) and away we went."
Marcus Kruger also scored for the Blackhawks, who were bowled over by four Canucks goals in the second period – three on the power play – to make it 5-2 heading into the third. Vancouver controlled much of the action early by out-skating, out-shooting and out-hitting the Hawks, but the game was still tied 1-1 at the first intermission.
Booth's power-play goal 6:00 into the game gave Vancouver a quick 1-0 lead, but that was just the start of the Canucks' big night on special teams. It was also the start of a forgettable night for Chicago's special-teams units, which couldn't solve Luongo in five power plays and also allowed a team-record five man-advantage goals.
Two unsuccessful first-period power plays for Chicago helped Vancouver seize momentum and the Canucks never looked back. The Hawks also started playing right to the Canucks' strengths by taking some ill-advised penalties – such as a roughing call on Patrick Kane at the end of the second period for bowling over Henrik Sedin well after the whistle.
That led to Rome's goal that made it 2-1 just 1:16 into the second. A boarding call on Bryan Bickell about two minutes later led to Daniel Sedin's sixth marker of the season on that power play to make it 3-1 and really give Vancouver an edge.
Kruger's goal that he chipped over Luongo on a rebound cut it to 3-2 with 4:53 left in the second, but Hansen quickly took momentum back with the Canucks' only even-strength tally of the night just 43 seconds later – set up by a defensive breakdown deep in the Chicago end.
The careless penalties, however, are probably what the Hawks regret most.
"Against any team you don't want to take that many penalties, especially unforced penalties and especially against a team like that – that has a great power play," said Hawks captain Jonathan Toews, who posted a team-high five shots. "Even if you do find yourself in the box sometimes, sometimes things happen, you've got to find a way to kill off penalties and we didn't do that at all."
Leading 4-2 with three power-play goals already in the books, the Canucks got two more for the final margin. A high-sticking call on Viktor Stalberg created their fifth power play, which they converted to make it 5-2 late in the second off a blast by Hamhuis.
Then Vancouver added one more midway through the third after an ugly sequence by Chicago's Daniel Carcillo – who was whistled for roughing and assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct plus a 10-minute misconduct, all in one fell swoop.
That's when Henrik Sedin made the Hawks pay for a fifth time on the power play – after Chicago came into the game with the League's fourth-ranked penalty-kill unit. The Hawks' anemic power play, which went 0-for-5, is a much bigger concern. Chicago was already ranked 28th in the NHL with the man advantage before the game and saw a paltry conversion rate of 10.4 percent sink even lower to 9.4 percent (5 for 53).
"It was tough watching," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Some of our execution in both (special teams) areas was very poor. Give them credit for making some nice plays on the power play, but I think they were results of what we did on several of them."
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