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Luongo stops 32 shots as Canucks beat Hawks 3-0

by Brian Hedger /

CHICAGO - There were no champagne bottles, no excited high-fives or hugs and no boisterous trash talk about the Chicago Blackhawks inside the Vancouver Canucks' locker room Friday night.

There were just a few smiles and pats on the back while the team busily packed equipment for a return trip to Vancouver. It was as if the Canucks' impressive 3-0 win at the United Center against the rival Blackhawks was just another game -- which most know wasn't really the case.

It wasn't just another game for Vancouver (14-7-3), which had to be feeling a bit like Charlie Brown trying to boot a football held by Lucie Van Pelt lately where the Hawks are concerned.

It was the Hawks who booted the Canucks from the playoffs two straight years. It was the Hawks who'd beaten the Canucks in the first two meetings this season -- including a 7-1 drubbing at Rogers Arena on Nov. 20 that Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault found to be a bit excessive.

Just another win? Not likely, despite saying that afterward.

It was only one regular-season win, but it was still a measure of revenge for the Canucks - who relished the sight of goalie Roberto Luongo putting a cherry on top with a solid 32-save shutout, his second of the season.

"It's just a game, it's a win," said Luongo, who made a great save on a prime scoring chance by Hawks forward Tomas Kopecky during a power play just 15 seconds into the third period to preserve a 1-0 lead. "It's a big win, obviously. It wraps up the two-game road trip pretty nicely. It's important to rebound after a performance like that against them (last time), but it's a game and now we move on and get ready for the next one."

Only they're moving on with smiles on their faces, knowing they came into Chicago's Madhouse on Madison and dropped their rivals to just 6-8-0 on home ice.

The Canucks also left their mark on the Hawks physically after a first period filled with bone-crunching hits. It was apropos that a game filled with tough play was ultimately decided by Vancouver's fourth line - which got a hard-working goal by Tanner Glass at 11:18 of the second period to open the scoring.

After Dan Hamhuis sent a shot toward the Hawks' goal, the puck wound up loose in the crease as Jannik Hansen battled with Chicago's Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook near the blue paint. Hansen was knocked to the ice, but Glass snuck in and found the puck before Chicago goalie Marty Turco. He popped it home for his third goal of the season -- and just like that, the Canucks had a 1-0 lead.

Kopecky then had Chicago's best scoring chance of the game so early in the third that fans barely had a chance to get back to their seats.

He got the puck close to the Vancouver net, just to the left and Luongo was sprawled on the ice. Kopecky said he missed the net while Luongo said he got a piece of the puck, but whatever happened it started a sequence that secured the win for the Canucks.

The puck sailed wide. The Hawks didn't score on either of the back-to-back power plays they got to start the third -- and Kopecky then got called for boarding not long after Vancouver killed the second one. Defenseman Christian Ehrhoff scored his fourth goal of the season just eight seconds into the man advantage to make it 2-0 at 5:06 and the Hawks were in trouble. Henrik Sedin added his third goal of the season with just 4:25 left to play for the final margin.

"I'm really frustrated right now, especially with myself," Kopecky said. "I missed that empty net and it would be a totally different game, and then I took a penalty and they scored and it changed the game. We've just got to stay away from the box and bury our chances."

They've also got to start playing at home more like the Canucks did against them in this game - though it should be noted Chicago coach Joel Quenneville was pleased with his team's first two periods.

"Today they played the game we were supposed to play," Kopecky said. "Simple and ugly, and they came out with the win."

Vancouver was also quite defensive, figuratively and literally. After sounding defensive about their recent struggles against the Hawks after their morning skate, the Canucks then got defensive on the ice.

It started early, as Vancouver's play in the first period spoke volumes for how heated this rivalry has become. The teams combined for 27 hits in the first period alone, with Vancouver out-hitting the Hawks officially 14-13 -- including several big ones heard throughout the building.

Ehrhoff and Keith Ballard did most of the hitting early, including a hard cross check that Ehrhoff put on a fallen Hawks captain Jonathan Toews during a Chicago power play at 13:02. Toews got the only penalty during the sequence for goaltender interference, but Patrick Kane also took an inadvertent stick to the face while trying to break up the skirmish.

Ballard then dished out a little pain to Viktor Stalberg with just under 4:00 left in the first, checking him hard into the boards between the left circle and blue line in the Vancouver zone. Stalberg limped off the ice, but returned.

The Hawks, who outshot the Canucks 14-8 in the first, dominated that period offensively. They just couldn't get one past Luongo - who kept it 0-0 at the first intermission with some great saves. All told, it was a frustrating night for the team wearing red, especially after scoring seven goals against Vancouver the last time they met.

"You're never going to go out there and expect to score seven goals every single night," Toews said. "It didn't happen tonight. That's a little frustrating, especially in our own building. We love to beat that team. There's little things that you can point at that were the cause of us losing that game, but I think it's our overall game that wasn't good enough."

There was also one big reason standing in front of the Vancouver goal named "Luongo."

Vigneault found his goalie's performance to be especially enjoyable, even though he steadfastly maintained this game was merely about the two points earned in the standings and nothing more.

"He was the best player on the ice, without a doubt," Vigneault said. "Five-on-five there wasn't a lot of room and space for both teams. Both teams were playing real tight and real smart, and it didn't make for a lot of chances. But they had a few chances on their power-play and he made the saves he had to make."

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