They have stolen home-ice advantage against what in theory is a superior opponent and have turned what was once a best-of-7 series into a best-of-5 -- with three of the five games at home.
But after the Canucks wasted a glorious opportunity Monday night to go up 2-0 in their Western Conference Semifinal series against Chicago Blackhawks and wound up with a 4-2 loss at the United Center, the prevailing attitude among Vancouver players was disappointment that they failed to strike a devastating blow, rather than satisfaction about heading home for Game 3 with the series tied at 1-1.
Goaltender Roberto Luongo was given an opportunity to sugarcoat the loss, one in which the Canucks held a 2-0 lead early and a 2-1 lead in the third period, but he was blunt right after the game when asked if he was satisfied with a split.
"We came here tonight to win a game; we didn't come here to split," he said. "You can't be satisfied. We had an opportunity to do something really good here tonight and unfortunately we fell a bit short."Mason Raymond
gave the Canucks a 1-0 edge just 1:22 into Game 2. Mikael Samuelsson's power-play goal at 5:02 doubled the lead and put Vancouver in great position to steal both games at the United Center.
But it all fell apart after that. Brent Seabrook cut the lead in half less than two minutes after Samuelsson's goal, and from there the Blackhawks applied constant pressure. The dominance didn't bear fruit until early in the third period, when Patrick Sharp's shorthanded goal tied the game and Kris Versteeg's goal with 90 seconds remaining gave the Blackhawks the lead for good.
Twenty-four hours later at GM Place, that instant remorse for letting a 2-0 lead slip away had morphed into glass-is-half-full mentality.
"Sure, there's disappointment. I think we felt real close. We were a period away from being up 2-0," Raymond said Tuesday afternoon. "But now it's 1-1. We got a split. And we got to be happy about that."
"After the game I think you're disappointed for sure because you know what could've been," said NHL scoring leader Henrik Sedin
. "But it takes you a half an hour and then you have to start thinking positive and we got a split which we're really happy with."
One thing the Canucks have going for them is they held the lead or were tied for all but 90 seconds of the first two games of the series. Sedin talked Tuesday about how the team's confidence isn't shaken because it was more about how the Canucks gave away game 2 as opposed to the Blackhawks taking it from them.
"I thought we played a very good first 10 or 15 minutes," Sedin said. "In the second they had a strong push, but in the third they didn't have much. We gave them a few chances on our power play and they scored on one of those. Other than that, they had two or three chances."
The Canucks have said throughout the postseason about how this is a different team from the one that folded against the Blackhawks in the second round last year. But the way this series is going -- with the Canucks winning Game 1 and giving away a two-goal lead in Game 2 -- is already mirroring what happened in 2009.
To coach Alain Vigneault, the past is the past and he's just focusing on Game 3.
"We were better in the first game, they were better (on Monday) night," Vigneault said. "We're going to do everything we can (Wednesday) night to be better. Obviously we had an opportunity to make that game 3-1, but we let it slip. We're going to have to deal with it and get better."