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Composed Canucks stay alive with Game 5 win

by Dan Rosen /
CHICAGO -- The Canucks needed a trip to the Windy City to find the composure and goaltending that escaped them at home last week. They used both to get themselves right back in this Western Conference Semifinal series Sunday night.

Vancouver scored early in Game 5 and then got a vintage bounce-back performance from Roberto Luongo while doing its best to avoid taking any dumb, retaliatory penalties. All that allowed the Canucks to stave off elimination with a 4-1 victory in front of an increasingly disgruntled capacity crowd at United Center that for the first time watched the modernized version of its team lose when afforded the chance to eliminate a team.


Game 6 will be Tuesday night at GM Place, where the Canucks were crushed by the Hawks in Games 3 and 4 by a combined 12-6 score. Vancouver will have to find a way to win there to force Game 7, which would be back at United Center on Thursday.

"We're just happy to still be playing," said Canucks defenseman Shane O'Brien, who had a rebound performance of his own after a dreadful effort in Game 4. "They're a great team over there and I'm sure they'll make their adjustments, but I know when Bobby Lu is on like that we're a pretty good team. So we're just going to continue to play hard in front of him, and hopefully he can continue to see pucks so we can continue playing hockey."

Vancouver got its first three goals from blueliners as Kevin Bieksa scored twice, including a one-timer on the power play 13 minutes into the second period, after Christian Ehrhoff started it off with a goal from the top of the right circle 59 seconds into the game. Bieksa also scored off the rush at 14:24 of the first.

Alexandre Burrows, who was directly in front of Blackhawks goalie Antti Niemi (20 saves) on Ehrhoff's goal and Bieksa's second, added an empty-net goal. Henrik Sedin, Mikael Samuelsson and Kyle Wellwood each had two assists while Bieksa added one.

Luongo made 29 saves after giving up 11 goals on 68 shots over Games 3 and 4, but he lost his bid for his second career postseason shutout with 7:09 left when Jonathan Toews redirected Duncan Keith's shot-pass into the net.

Any momentum the Hawks might have had from that goal was gone in four seconds, because Marian Hossa was caught high-sticking Mason Raymond off the ensuing faceoff. The Hawks, in fact, killed themselves with seven minor penalties, including two each from Hossa, Dustin Byfuglien and Ben Eager.

They looked a little like the Canucks did in Game 4 when Vancouver took eight minor penalties and gave up four power-play goals. The Hawks were only victimized on one of their penalties, but still couldn't get anything going as a result of their parade to the box.

"I'm not complaining about some of the penalties, but I think we have to be smart about the ones that we do take," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "I think we were playing like we had to win this game and we got zapped right off the bat with what went on, and we didn't respond very well to that. We had some excitement in the building that we didn't take advantage of."

Perhaps most important for the Canucks was the return of their penalty kill, which had been dreadful all playoffs. Vancouver killed off all four of the Hawks' power plays and allowed only three shots on Luongo.

The Canucks gave up six power-play goals on 14 times shorthanded over the previous two games. They had allowed a whopping 17 power-play goals on 48 chances in 10 previous playoff games before their 100-perfect effort Sunday night.

"We were obviously more desperate because we were in a do-or-die situation and we did whatever we could to kill them off," Luongo said. "We also didn't take eight penalties to be in the box all game."

It was still a bloody win for the Canucks.

They lost defenseman Sami Salo to an undisclosed injury late in the first period. He was hit with a shot in his midsection and was taken to a Chicago area hospital for further evaluation. Coach Alain Vigneault would not offer an update following the game.

O'Brien was also cut above the eye when Byfuglien followed through on a shot 11:31 into the second. He left a trail of blood from the circle inside the Canucks' zone all the way to the visitor's bench on the far side, but returned minutes later.

Byfuglien was not called for high-sticking, but he did receive a two-minute minor for slashing Burrows 49 seconds later and the Canucks cashed in with Bieksa's second of the night. It was a laser that sailed through Niemi, who was screened by Burrows.

Vancouver had another major scare late in the second period when Daniel Sedin hobbled off the ice with 3:30 left. He finally left the bench about 45 seconds later, but returned early in the third period.

The key, though, was how the five defensemen played without Salo for 40 minutes and how the forwards did a fantastic job backchecking to help out the depleted defense corps.

"They did everything they could as far as trying to … incite us to get into the box, but I thought the guys did a good job of staying smart and staying on the ice," Vigneault said. "The whole team buckled down and did what we had to do to win the game."

Instead of being overaggressive and undisciplined, Vancouver used its early lead to control the pace of the game. They slowed it down and gave up very few second chances, thanks mostly to Luongo's improved rebound control.

The Hawks, though, blamed themselves for that.

"We just didn't skate near as well as we could have," defenseman Brian Campbell said. "We can control a lot of how we play and how we skate, and we didn't move the puck. They're a great team, but we made them better in some areas because we didn't come through in how we were supposed to play."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

Shift of the Game:
Daniel Sedin was called for hooking Jonathan Toews with 48.5 seconds left in the first period. It was the kind of penalty that could have crushed the momentum the Canucks had built with a strong first period. However, Roberto Luongo came up with a save on Toews before time expired in the first period and then the Canucks killed off the remaining 1:11 at the start of the second period to preserve a 2-0 lead that eventually grew to 3-0. Vancouver could not get a timely kill in Games 3 and 4, but it did Sunday night and it was huge. The Canucks killed off all four of their minor penalties.
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