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Been there, done that

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
Been there, done that.

That’s what you can file Game 4 between the Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks under, a 2-1 overtime win by the Blackhawks to even the best-of-seven Western Conference Semifinal up at 2-2.

Flip your calendar back to January 20, 2009 and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

With one game left before the all-star break, Vancouver darted into San Jose intent on ending a five-game winless streak and, similar to Game 4 against Chicago, the Canucks were en route to victory before their own guarded play cost them late.

In that game the Canucks led 1-0 before the Sharks scored with 40 seconds left to send the game to overtime which they won 3:08 in; on this night the Canucks again led 1-0 before the Blackhawks scored with 2:44 remaining in regulation. They proceeded to net the game-winner 2:52 into the extra session.

Besides the final outcome, the eerie similarity that links both efforts is that in the third period Vancouver completely dropped offence from the menu in favor of a stifling defence.

That sounds great in theory, but sitting back and letting the opposition pepper Roberto Luongo with shot after shot after shot is a fool’s game, one the Canucks seem content on playing from time to time.

“They might have had a few more chances 5-on-5, but they didn’t get a ton and obviously I think we needed to do a little bit more there as far as generating and spending some time in their zone,” assessed coach Alain Vigneault.

“We were a couple of minutes away from winning this game but we made four mistakes on the same play and the puck ended up in the back of our net.”

After killing off more than 17 minutes from the clock in the third period, Vancouver took one shift off and it was costly.

As Vigneault said, four mistakes occurred: Willie Mitchell turned the puck over along the boards, Kyle Wellwood and Steve Bernier were caught out of position and Mitchell didn’t close out the shot quick enough.

The result was a Martin Havlat goal, which sparked another Blackhawks comeback.

Andrew Ladd scored the game-winner, but Vancouver wasn’t without chances in overtime as the Canucks had a 3-on-2 early on and missed the net before Alex Burrows was robbed by Nikolai Khabibulin in close right after.

That was the first sign of offence from the Canucks since Darcy Hordichuk opened the scoring off a rush that started with a blocked shot by Ryan Johnson.

With the Blackhawks pressing, Johnson got in the way of a Jonathan Toews wrister and that sprung Rick Rypien out of the Vancouver zone.

Rypien bullied his way down the ice and with defenceman Matt Walker pressuring him just enough, the Canucks forward performed a perfect spin-o-rama to hit Hordichuk, who had been trailing on the play, with a soft pass.

The Great Hordini had the biggest goal of his career and Vancouver’s highlight of the night offensively after the ripped a shot past Khabibulin.

It’s tough to argue that the Canucks didn’t deserve a better fate in this game, but with a fourth-line enforcer picking up Vancouver’s only goal, they clearly weren’t applying enough pressure on offence.

The Canucks had only four third period shots and one in overtime against the Blackhawks, similar to the six and zero they had against the Sharks almost five months ago.

Overall the Canucks were outshot 28-15 by the Blackhawks, who have held the edge in shots in all four games.

“Part of getting some offence is just taking some risks at the right time and if that opportunity is not there then you’ve just got to stay high percentage,” explained Vigneault.

“We’re not in a defensive mode here, we’re trying to play a high percentage, wait until the other team makes a mistake and then pounce on them. They didn’t make a lot of mistakes and when they did make mistakes, we weren’t able to execute and make them pay for it.”

The once best-of-seven that became a best-of-five is now a best-of-three with Game 5 slated for Saturday night at GM Place.

Through the first four games Vigneault and Vancouver’s coaching staff have seen a little bit of everything from Chicago, same goes for the Blackhawks on the flip side, so it’ll be interesting to see what adjustments both teams make to come out on top in Game 5.

“The only thing I know is that I don’t think we can go chance against chance against this team, I just think they’re too skilled and they’ve got too much of a great transition game,” Vigneault said.

“You’ve got to play a better puck management game. That being said though, they’re not putting tons of pressure on us either. They’re sending one guy and today was probably one of the best chess matches I’ve seen in hockey so far this year and it’s unfortunate we came out on the wrong side there.”

Added Luongo, who made 26 saves, “It’s a long series and it’s the first time to get to four so we’ve got to put this one behind us and get ready for Saturday.”

When Darcy Hordichuk is the only Vancouver player to score, you know the Canucks are in trouble. No to take anything away from Hordichuck and the fourth line, but since when is it Vancouver's most dangerous trio?

On this night the top three lines rarely put together any strong shifts. The Sedins and Burrows had a great scoring chance in overtime, but that was about it.

The Canucks were outshot by the Blackhawks 28-15.

This was a phenominal defensive effort for the Canucks for the better part of the game. One blopper late in the third and an overtime goal later and the series is even at 2-2 instead of Vancouver holding a lethal 3-1 lead.

Roberto Luongo played his best game of the series stopping 26 of 28 shots. He's the reason this game was within reach for the Canucks late.

Special teams played no part in this contest with Vancouver going 0-for-1 and Chicago finishing 0-for-2.

26 – Saves for Roberto Luongo

1 Career playoff goal for Darcy Hordichuk

1 Career playoff assist for Rick Rypien

– Vancouver has lost 3 out of its last 4 series in which they led 2-1

2 Blocked shots for Ryan Johnson, his first block led to Vancouver's only goal

'We weren’t able to get the puck off the wall there and he kind of missed the shot and it was able to find a hole."

-Roberto Luongo

"Part of getting some offence is taking some risks at the right time and if that opportunity is not there then you’ve just got to stay high percentage."

-Coach Alain Vigneault

"It’s a long series and it’s the first time to get to four so we’ve got to put this one behind us and get ready for Saturday."

-Roberto Luongo

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