Down, but not out
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Just when Mats Sundin decides to wake up, the rest of the Vancouver Canucks go to sleep. |
After doing next to nothing for the better part of the first four games of the Western Conference Semifinal against the Chicago Blackhawks, Sundin kicked it into high gear in Game 5 and was dominant on offence for Vancouver.
Sundin had easily his best outing of the series as he first assisted on the Canucks’ opening goal before scoring the then go-ahead tally in the second period.
In 16:03 of ice time, his second highest total of the series, Sundin drew a lot of attention from Chicago’s defence and he used his massive frame to create numerous scoring chances.
That, and his quality stats, meant little to Sundin following a disappointing 4-2 loss for the Canucks that puts them down 3-2 in the best-of-seven series.
“I don’t know what to say, we worked hard, but there are some things we have to do better,” said Sundin, who, along with many Canucks, was befuddled as to how this game got away from them.
“As the game went on I thought we played better and better after a little bit of a slow start. It’s a close game, they capitalized on their power play at the end there to get the lead.”
The Blackhawks made the Canucks pay for their undisciplined - and some would argue undeserved - penalties in this game finishing 2-for-5 on the power play.
Dave Bolland netted the game-winner on the man advantage with 5:05 remaining in the third period, but it was Dustin Byfuglien’s power play marker late in the second that ripped the momentum from Vancouver for good.
Apparently tough guys scoring is all the rage now. Who knew?
The Canucks led 2-1 late in the second before Byfuglien bolted into the slot and fooled Roberto Luongo with a shot to even the score a 2-2.
That led to an intermission filled with confidence for the Blackhawks and questions for the Canucks.
Still, Vancouver responded with a positive showing in the early stages of the final period. Chicago just wanted the win more and they grunted it out in the end.
For the seventh time in nine games the Canucks were outshot, this time 30-21, and in the third period they just couldn’t generate the lethal rush needed to win or later on tie the game.
Not surprisingly, the Vancouver dressing room was not the place to be for a good time after the loss. The somber atmosphere reeked of disappointment, but there was also a hint of optimism to be found.
Despite what transpired in Game 5 and throughout the series, the Canucks remain confident they can head into Chicago and slip out a win in Game 6 on Monday to force a seventh and deciding game.
If not, their season is over.
“I know a lot of people are going to write us off, but we believe in this locker room that we can win, we should have won both games in Chicago,” said Roberto Luongo, who made 26 saves.
“We’re going to regroup, we’re going to take tomorrow to refocus. We’re going to come out Monday and we’re going to play the hardest game we’ve played all year and make sure we put our best game on the ice and bring this back here.”
The Canucks have now dropped two straight home games after winning three in a row to start the playoffs.
The fans at GM Place let their displeasure show by littering the ice with debris late in the game, a statement at how the Canucks played and also how they felt the officiating was.
There were numerous chants throughout the night about how poorly calls were being made, and although they must have been tempted, the Canucks didn’t join in on any of them.
When the officiating and Vancouver’s undisciplined play collided in the third period, it led to Bolland’s second game-winner of the playoffs. That simply can not happen from here on out is the Canucks have any hope of playing another home game this season.
Heading into Chicago trailing in the series sounds daunting, but the Canucks can take solace in the fact that they’ve won there before and pretty much dominated both games in the Windy City.
That’s giving the Canucks a little light in otherwise dark times.
“We’ve won here before, we know what to do,” said Henrik Sedin, who assisted on Vancouver’s second goal.
“We can’t sit back as much as we’ve done before and let them come at us. But we’ve got to play really tight in the neutral zone and try to get some turnovers on their team at centre.”
Clearly the Canucks have already erased the memory of Game 5, which is likely a good thing.
Through two periods, Vancouver's offence was in good shape. The Canucks were getting pucks to the net, generating traffic in front and they weren't trying to set up the pretty goal, instead opting for anything and everything.
That all changed in the third period as questionable calls combined with undisciplined play led to a few penalties and Vancouver was unable to mount much a charge offensively. When they did, shots rang wide.
Mats Sundin, aka the sleep giant, awoke from his slumber and led the Canucks with a goal and an assist in his best game of the playoffs.
The Canucks were outshot by the Blackhawks 30-21.
The return of Sami Salo provided the Canucks with a bit of a boost on the backend, but it didn't last the full 60 minutes.
Roberto Luongo was great for two periods, yet like the rest of the Canucks, he left his A-game in the locker room for the third period. Luongo finished with 26 saves.
A pair of power play goals were the difference as Dustin Byfuglien and Dave Bolland each scored on the man advantage. Bolland's goal counted as the game-winner.
The Canucks finished 1-for-2 with Ryan Kesler's second playoff goal counting as Vancouver's only special team's score. The Canucks generated three power play shots.
2 – Points for Mats Sundin, a goal and an assist
14 – Hits for the Canucks in the second period, they finished with 30 overall
20:36 – Ice time for Sami Salo in his first game back from injury
5 – Five ff Vancouver's last nine goals have come on the power play
26 – Saves for Roberto Luongo
“I know a lot of people are going to write us off, but we believe in this locker room that we can win."
“There aren’t a lot of scoring chances either way. It’s going to be one or two mistakes that turn the game either way."
"I don’t know what to say, we worked hard, but there are some things we have to do better."