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Canucks turn the other cheek and light up the scoreboard

by Dave Lozo /
CHICAGO -- The bad blood between the Chicago Blackhawks and Vancouver Canucks was supposed to spill out on the United Center ice Saturday night.

Goaltenders were to be trampled.

Glass was to shatter from the impact of bone-crushing hits.

Scrums were supposed to turn into full-on brawls that would result in players sitting on the laps of teammates in the penalty box.

Yet something funny happened during the Canucks' 5-1 win against the Blackhawks in Game 1 of their Western Conference Semifinal series.

The Canucks turned the other cheek.

Blackhawks forward Tomas Kopecky backed into Roberto Luongo during a power play, yet no Canuck took his head off. Defenseman Christian Ehrhoff was leveled by Bryan Bickell as the second period ended, but Ehrhoff just picked himself up off the ice and skated to the dressing room.

All night long, the Canucks refused to take the bait.

"Don't get me wrong. We still hate them," Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa said. "It's more important to win the game. We thought the discipline approach would better serve our purpose."

Shane O'Brien racked up 20 penalty minutes in the Canucks' six-game loss to the Blackhawks last season, the series that served as the hate foundation on which the skyscraper of hate where the Canucks and Blackhawks live now was built.

But he remained disciplined in Game 1, staying out of the box all night.

"It was probably one of the biggest things we talked about prior to the series," O'Brien said. "A lot of times you do want to give a little punch here and there, when they get a good lick on you, you want to give one back. But this time of year, it's about winning hockey games. You don't want to be the guy who takes the stupid penalty to put you down 5-on-4, and they end up scoring."

At no point was the Canucks' discipline more evident than in the final minutes of the third period, when the game was clearly over with the Canucks up 5-1. It was the perfect time for players on both teams to let loose their frustration and get in some cheap shots without worrying about the outcome of the game.

With 1:26 left, Blackhawks star Marian Hossa cross-checked Canucks forward Alex Burrows into the bench. It was as if the stars aligned. Here was a chance for Burrows, who has never been known to back away from a fight, to mix it up with a guy known more for his goal-scoring than his punch-landing.

But Burrows held back, let the officials come between then, and skated away. But didn't he want to take a swing at Hossa in the situation?

"Deep down I want to," Burrows said, "but it's about team right now. It's about winning games and it's about winning the series.

"At this time of year, it's not about personal rivalries, it's not about hitting a guy. It's about taking a punch to make a play. You don't want to give them any momentum going into Game 2. We like to play physical and play a tough game, but at the same time, we don't want to have a parade to the box. We've got to be smart."

With no retaliation penalties among their six minors on Saturday, the Canucks followed the plan perfectly.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DLozoNHL

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