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Alberts goes from villain to favorite in Canucks' win

by Dave Lozo
VANCOUVER -- He certainly didn't stand out during the Vancouver Canucks' 7-2 win against the Los Angeles Kings in Game 5 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series. But Andrew Alberts went from villain to fan favorite over the span of a few hours at GM Place on Friday night.

Alberts was a healthy scratch for Games 3 and 4 of this series after he took a whopping 23 penalty minutes during Games 1 and 2. The only reason he was back in the lineup for the pivotal Game 5 was because of injuries to the team's seventh and eighth defensemen, Aaron Rome and Nolan Baumgartner.

It was so bad for Alberts, who was acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes in March for a third-round draft pick, that during a pregame report on the big board in GM Place that mentioned he was returning to the lineup, his home fans booed the news.

Those boos not only turned to cheers during the final minutes of the blowout victory, a portion of the sellout crowd started a "Let's go Alberts" chant to show their appreciation for his assist and plus-2 performance in 15:05 of ice time.

Alberts definitely made the most of his second chance.

"Obviously the first two games didn't go the way I wanted to," he said. "You almost feel like you let the team down. It's good to come back and play a solid game and help contribute.

"It took a while to get back into it. I didn't have a hit till the third period there. I just felt better as the game went on. It was good to get a game under the belt there after being out."

A simple Twitter search of "Andrew Alberts" in the aftermath of Game 2 would've resulted in a slew of blurbs ripping the 28-year-old. But he won the fans back during Game 5, especially after his long shot late in the third period caromed right to Steve Bernier, who scored his second goal of the game and gave Alberts his first point of the playoffs.

Minutes later, the fans let Alberts know that all was forgiven.

"I wasn't sure what they were saying, then the boys started making fun of me," Alberts said of the chants. "It's pretty funny. In Canada here you're under a microscope. If you don't play too well they're going to let you hear about it. It's nice to know they're cheering you on."

Kevin Bieksa, who was Alberts' defensive partner Friday night, said it was great to see Alberts go out and erase the first two games.

"It was nice that he seemed relaxed," Bieksa said. "He's got the full support of the whole team and the coaching staff and we all let him know that. He did a great job, he picked up an assist, he was physical when he had the chance."

And how about the "Let's Go Alberts" chants?

"That was awesome," he said. "I don't think too many guys on the bench knew what they were saying, because it was going down the bench, 'What are they saying? What are they saying?' That's great. I don't know how he was handling the fans being negative towards him. I don’t think the fans should be like that in any case. It definitely doesn't help out the cause if the guy's not playing the way he wants to.

"I guess they forgave him and they have a good relationship."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter at: @DLozoNHL

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