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Canucks put Blackhawks on the brink

by Dan Rosen
CHICAGO -- They gave up the first goal and committed seven minor penalties leading to a pair of power play goals for Chicago. So, no, the Vancouver Canucks were not at their best Sunday night at United Center.

But, they were resilient. They were good enough.

The Canucks took a commanding three games to none lead over Chicago in the best-of-seven Western Conference Quarterfinal round series with a gutsy 3-2 victory on the Chicago Blackhawks' home ice. Mikael Samuelsson's goal 6:48 into the third period proved to be the winner as Vancouver moved a step closer to sending the champs home before the calendar turns to May.

Vancouver has a chance to complete the sweep Tuesday night in Game 4 back at United Center, where the Blackhawks have won only 24 of 42 games this season.

"We battled," Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa said. "It wasn't a perfect game, it wasn't pretty, but sometimes on the road in the playoffs you need a couple of ugly ones. The main thing is we were resilient. We were down, we were up, they tied it, there was a lot of momentum shifts and we stuck with it."

Chicago will attempt to become just the fourth team in NHL history but second in as many years to win a series after losing the first three games. The Flyers, of course, did it last year against Boston.

"It's a tough position, but we can't hang our heads," Patrick Sharp said. "No one is going to feel sorry for us."

Vancouver was on the wrong end of a lot of the whistles Sunday and even gave Chicago a 5-on-3 for 77 seconds midway through the first period. The Blackhawks, who were already ahead 1-0 on Duncan Keith's power play goal 6:54 into the game, were staring at a golden opportunity to grab complete control of a game they simply had to win.

Except, Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo (30 saves) would have none of it. He wrestled momentum away from the Blackhawks with three game-changing saves -- first on Jonathan Toews, then on Patrick Kane and finally on Patrick Sharp.

Luongo bested the Hawks' big three and eliminated most of the energy from the building to keep the deficit at 1-0 heading into the first intermission.

"The game could have been over there early on," said Canucks captain Henrik Sedin, who picked up his second assist of the night on Samuelsson's winner. "If they score there their big guns get confidence and that's a tough battle for us. But, he made some huge saves for us and that's a boost for the bench."

Vancouver carried the momentum into the second period and scored twice within 54 seconds halfway through to take a 2-1 lead.

Christian Ehrhoff scored seven seconds into a John Scott penalty with a blast through traffic from the Stanley Cup Playoffs' logo and Daniel Sedin registered his third of the series off a cross-crease feed from Alex Edler to put the Canucks ahead with 9:03 to play in the second period.

Sharp evened it up less than two minutes later with a power-play goal from the right hash mark off a feed from Toews, but the Blackhawks offense went dry for the rest of the game. Chicago had seven shots in the third period and went 0-for-2 on the power play.

"They turned it with two quick plays, two quick goals," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "We scored on that one power play, but I'd like to have another four minutes and change."

Quenneville is talking about the hit that Raffi Torres delivered on Brent Seabrook 12:14 into the second period that set up Sharp's power-play goal and eventually sent the Blackhawks' defenseman into the dressing room to go through the NHL's mandated tests per the new concussion protocol.

Torres, who was playing for the first time since serving a four-game suspension for elbowing Edmonton's Jordan Eberle in the head, crunched Seabrook behind the Blackhawks' net and received a two-minute minor for interference. Quenneville said he thought it should have been a major penalty.

"I thought it was a major live and seeing the replay, clearly," Quenneville said.

Seabrook played a shift roughly 90 seconds after Sharp's goal, but was hit twice on it, first by Tanner Glass and again by Torres. He went to the dressing room with roughly five minutes to play in the second period to get examined, but returned for the third period.

"He did have to settle down," Quenneville said. "Someone else might have been on a stretcher."

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault didn't think Torres' hit on Seabrook warranted a penalty.

"Obviously you never want to see a player get hurt, and I understand where (the NHL) is going with it, but hockey is a physical game," Vigneault said. "I think each and every one of us wants it to stay a physical game without players getting hurt, but in a collision sport there's always going to be injuries."

With Seabrook back the Blackhawks had an early power play opportunity in the third period, but couldn't muster up a shot on goal. Just over a minute after the power play ended, Samuelsson scored the winner.

Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (23 saves) stopped Ehrhoff shot from the right point and left a rebound for Henrik Sedin in the slot. His shot was blocked by a sprawling Brian Campbell, but the puck came right to Samuelsson, who put it in with his backhand from the high slot.

"He was out of position," Samuelsson said of Crawford. "I'll take it any day."

If the Canucks take one more game in Chicago, they'll have a mini vacation before finding out who their next opponent will be.

"We said it from day one, it might be boring for a lot of guys, but if we go out there and play our game it's tough to stop us a lot of nights," Henrik Sedin said. "There are going to be nights we don't get the bounces or the calls, but it's not going to happen too often."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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