VANCOUVER -- He's known as "Captain Serious" to many, but on Tuesday night you could've easily called him "Captain Clutch" as Jonathan Toews did what he usually does when the going gets tough -- he found the back of the net at a crucial time.
With his team down 1-0 and shorthanded with 1:56 remaining in the third, Toews deked a couple Canucks defensemen, got the puck across to Marian Hossa and then lunged to put home the rebound past Roberto Luongo for his first goal of the series.
"I kept telling myself there was going to be a big one coming," a visibly dejected Toews said afterward. "I got that one at the end to give ourselves a chance in the overtime period.
"One more, that's all we needed, and just coming up a little bit short is pretty shocking and disappointing."
Toews was held in check by Canucks forward Ryan Kesler, who finished the series a plus-4 with 4 assists. The 22-year-old finished the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs with just 1 goal and 4 assists, and was a minus-4 in the seven games.
"There's nothing more frustrating than in a series like that when you feel like you're playing well," Toews said. "You're doing everything you possibly can to get around the net and obviously that's how I contribute to this team, is points -- scoring goals and making plays offensively."
It was a sharp contrast to a year ago, when Toews won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs' most valuable player just months after he was named the MVP of the 2010 Olympics.
Toews finished Game 7 leading all forwards with 23:39 of ice time, had two shots on goal and won 11 of 22 faceoffs.
"It's so disappointing," Toews said. "We battled so hard for each other. There wasn't a doubt in my mind, in any of our minds, that the way we played our last three games, what we showed each other, what we showed everyone else out there -- there wasn't a doubt that we were going to win this game."
For six months, it's a really good accomplishment. But as soon as April [11, the end of the regular season] comes around, no one thinks about the regular season anymore. For six months, it's a real battle to get into the playoffs in the NHL these days. There are a lot of good teams, and it takes consistency over a long time.
— Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau on clinching a playoff berth after a win against the Islanders on Saturday