It won't ease the pain of being eliminated in each of the last two playoff seasons, but the Vancouver Canucks
have to be feeling good about themselves after an emotional 4-3 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks
at Rogers Arena on Friday night.
Not that their coach wasn't trying to downplay the pleasure of beating the team that knocked them out of the postseason in 2009 and last spring.
"Obviously, we knew we were playing the Stanley Cup champions," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said after his team also atoned for a 7-1 home loss to the Hawks on Nov. 20. "But to say there was more at stake than two points would be false. It was another game to try to get better and prove ourselves."
Daniel Sedin took over the NHL scoring lead when he took twin brother Henrik's pass in the slot and fired a shot that hit Chicago defender Dave Bolland and went over the blocker of goalie Marty Turco with 4 minutes left, snapping a 3-3 tie.
Daniel also had an assist to pass Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos with 69 points. Henrik, the NHL scoring leader last season, had a goal and a pair of assists, while Christian Ehrhoff and Mikael Samuelsson also scored for the Canucks, who lead the overall standings with 77 points, four more than Philadelphia, and are nine ahead of Detroit for first place in the West.
"It's a good feeling when you're winning games," Daniel said while playing down his own accomplishments. "We have a confident group in here. It's good to be part of it."
He also downplayed the fact that the Hawks were the party of the second part.
"We take it game-by-game," he said. "We can't focus too much on who we're playing against. We have to focus on how we're playing, and we did that tonight."
Roberto Luongo stopped 42 of 45 shots, allowing goals by Jonathan Toews, Nick Boynton and Bolland. The goal by Bolland at 7:47 into the third period put the Hawks ahead 3-2 -- but Henrik Sedin tied it with a power-play goal at 10:09 before setting up his brother's game-winner.
"Our goaltender was one of the best players on the ice," Vigneault said of Luongo, who was named the game's first star. "They had more scoring chances than we did, but our power play came up big, our penalty-killing came up big, and when we did make some mistakes, the goalie was there."
Chicago, which ousted Vancouver from the last two Stanley Cup playoffs in bitterly contested six-game series, remained tied for ninth in the West at 27-21-4. The Hawks lost in regulation for the 11th time this season in a game they led in the third period.
"We played pretty well," said coach Joel Quenneville, whose team remains one point out of the top eight in the West. "This was a tough loss. It's the 11th time we've had this happen this season, with nothing to show for it."
Bolland put the Hawks ahead when his high shot was gloved past Luongo by rookie defenseman Chris Taney. But Henrik Sedin set up in the lower right circle and one-timed Samuelsson's pass behind Turco for the Canucks' second power-play goal.
Chicago had more chances in the first period, but the Canucks took a 1-0 lead at 18:06 when Ehrhoff hustled to the Chicago blue line and fired Tanner Glass' rebound into the net for his third goal in five games and 10th of the season. TV replays showed the puck appeared to come outside the zone.
The goal came after an apparent score by Bolland was waved off. He beat Luongo as Troy Brouwer cruised through the crease and made contact with the goaltender's stick, prompting an interference ruling by referee Eric Furlatt that negated the goal.
Toews tied it at 5:06 of the second when he snapped a low shot past Luongo after knocking Manny Malhotra off the puck along the right boards. He helped the Hawks take the lead at 9:31 when his bouncing centering pass was tipped by Boynton, who jumped into the play, for his first goal in 69 games.
Samuelsson tied it at 18:44 by beating a screened Turco for a power-play goal, ending a string of 15 consecutive Chicago penalty kills. That came after Luongo made several key saves to keep the Hawks off the board during a 47-second, 5-on-3 advantage.
Toews wants to make sure the Hawks carry the effort they put out against the Canucks into the final four games of their road trip, which resumes Monday at Calgary.
"We had chances to win the game," Toews said. "We just didn't capitalize. We worked hard. We can't get too negative -- we did a lot of good things. We've got to bring that level of effort every night, and we'll get a lot of points."
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report