With a chance to close out the Chicago Blackhawks and advance to the second round of the 2011 Playoffs, the Vancouver Canucks were thumped 7-2 Tuesday night at the United Center in Chicago in Game 4 of the Western Conference Quarterfinal.
The Canucks, looking for their second sweep in a best-of-seven series in franchise history, were not the same team that owned a 3-0 series lead heading into this game and that became evident 1:43 into the first period when Bryan Bickell opened the scoring for the Blackhawks.
Although Sami Salo evened the score at 1-1 shortly after and the teams closed out the opening period even, the ice tilted dramatically in the Blackhawks favour in an ugly second period for the Canucks.
The carnage began with early goals from Brian Campbell and Duncan Keith just 17 seconds apart, which matched a Canucks team record for the fastest two goals against dating back to a 5-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on April 18, 2001 when Peter Forsberg and Joe Sakic lit the lamp in succession.
Vancouver had no answer for a rejuvenated Chicago squad and the Blackhawks closed out the period with two more goals, courtesy of Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik, to take a 5-1 lead.
This was the eighth time in playoff history the Canucks have given up four goals in a frame; most recently it was the Blackhawks accomplishing the feat with four second period goals in a 7-5 win on May 11, 2009.
On some nights, there’s something dangerous about the Blackhawks you just can’t put your finger on.
Over the final 20 minutes, in which Patrick Sharp scored twice before Daniel Sedin collected his fourth goal of the playoffs, the Canucks put a body on it instead.
Vancouver was noticeably more aggressive in the third period as the Canucks sent a message that one blowout doesn’t change the series. Chicago reciprocated with force and the result was two fighting majors, six misconducts and 10 minor penalties totally 90 penalty minutes.
The highlight of all the brouhahas was a throw down between Kevin Bieksa and Viktor Stalberg with the Canucks defenceman getting the best of the Blackhawks forward – to put it lightly.
“I think we were in control the whole time and we finished the game hard,” said Bieksa, Vancouver’s team leader in hits in Game 4 with seven, in regards to the late fisticuffs. “We weren’t going to give up and quit, we stayed physical and that’s the way we play.”
Overall, however, this is not how Vancouver plays and Bieksa recognizes the Canucks need to bring a better effort back home for Game 5 Thursday night at Rogers Arena.
“The preparation was the same going into tonight. The first period we were happy with, we just made some mistakes in the second period and they’re a good team, they played well tonight and their best players played well and they made us pay.
“We’re not happy about it,” continued Bieksa. “We got down a couple and I think we started to push too much. I got caught out of position and turned a few pucks over, uncharacteristic things for us.”
The character comes in how the Canucks respond to this loss and hopefully history hints to the result.
After suffering a 7-1 home loss to the Blackhawks this past November, Vancouver’s second loss to Chicago in 13 games to start the season, the Canucks rebounded to finish the regular season winning 44 of 63 games, earning at least a point in 50 of them, including two wins over Chicago.
Food for thought for those preparing to abandon ship.
This was the 10th time the Canucks have given up seven or more goals in a playoff game in franchise history, the Blackhawks didn’t lose four consecutive games all regular season, Daniel and Henrik Sedin combined for a minus-7 rating; Vancouver went 2-for-4 on the power play, Chicago finished 2-for-7.