CHICAGO - Who could blame Vancouver forward Taylor Pyatt if his mind began to wonder during the course of his team's Game 3 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks Tuesday.
After all, the 27-year-old Pyatt was making his playoff debut this season after spending almost a month mourning the death of his fiancé, Carly Bragnalo, who was killed in an April 2 car accident while vacationing with friends and family in Jamaica.
Pyatt, who was reunited with linemates Kyle Wellwood and Steve Bernier, played a little more than 12 minutes and registered four shots and three of Vancouver's 21 blocked shots for the game. He was an inspiring symbol in what could be considered Vancouver's finest effort in this series so far.
During his postgame press conference, Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault's eyes began to swell as he spoke of Pyatt and his courageous performance.
"It was a very emotional moment for us as a group," he said. "I don't think anybody in that room can imagine or put into words what Taylor had to go through and for him to come out and leave his family out east and join his extended family here out west to be a part of our group and be a part of this, meant a lot to all the players, coaches and management.
"And I thought he played a really good game for someone who was out for quite some time (since April 3) and I'm really proud of that young man. It's a great thing he did."
It was quite a scene in front of Pyatt's stall at the conclusion of Game 3 -- a 3-1 Vancouver victory -- as the media asked how he was able to deal with such a tragic event.
"It was nice to step back into the lineup and I was really nervous before the game but after those first few shifts, I felt good," he said. "The Canucks organization has been tremendous to me and family back home; it's a tough thing. But the guys have been so supportive and it's really helped me through a tremendously tough time."
Vigneault admits he never even approached Pyatt prior to Game 3 to ask if he wanted to play -- coach and player just knew the time was right in the absence of Pavol Demitra, who was sidelined with an undisclosed injury.
As is usually the case on the road, Pyatt was rooming with teammate Alex Burrows.
"We just let this unfold and allow him to be with his teammates," Vigneault said. "We asked him if that's what he wanted to do and he wanted to do that. He didn't want to be by himself and I didn't even ask him if he was ready to play. He was on a line that he practiced with (on Monday). He knew Pavol wasn't going to play and I just put him in and we were just going for it."
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.