|STL||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||0|
|VAN||0||0||0||(null - null)||3|
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) - Canucks coach Alain Vigneault wasn't happy about it, Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo is getting used to it, and St. Louis Blues bench boss Andy Murray couldn't figure out what all the fuss is about.
When St. Louis' Andy McDonald sprayed the star goalie with snow after Luongo smothered a puck early in Game 1 of the first-round playoff series Wednesday night, it sparked a penalty-filled contest that left the Canucks upset with the referees.
After Vancouver killed off six of seven power plays and scored once on a delayed penalty and again on a power play in its 2-1 series-opening victory, Vigneault said he was confused by the officiating. He wouldn't expand on that comment after practice Thursday, but left little doubt his biggest concern was the activity around Luongo.
"Obviously, any team playing against us are going to focus on Luongo and the ice spraying, pushing in the crease. I just think somebody has to pay attention to that, Vigneault said. "Everybody is going to key on him. It just has to be fair.
Luongo, who stopped 25 shots, wasn't worried about the extra attention.
"A snow shower is a snow shower. What are you going to do? Luongo said, shrugging. "If they think that's going to get me off my game, that's totally fine. I don't mind it. It does actually get me going and, if that's part of their game plan, fine. You just find ways to fight through that stuff."
Murray thought Luongo deserved some blame for covering the puck, and encouraged the referees to force him to play it, but otherwise dismissed the issue.
"We'd like to get a few more pucks behind Roberto. We're not so concerned about the pucks in front of him," Murray said. "Roberto is obviously a world-class goaltender and we need to be more efficient in our shooting of the puck."
Several Canucks said their biggest complaint was being penalized for reacting to the snow showers with pushing and shoving in post-whistle scrums.
Blues captain Keith Tkachuk only shook his head when the subject came up.
"I'm embarrassed to even talk about that. It's ridiculous," Tkachuk said. "You can tell the game has changed, at least in my 17-year career, if you're complaining about something like that rather than running someone from behind or starting a brawl. This is all nonsense stuff we're talking about."
While there was plenty of differing views on the officiating - Murray had no problem with the referees, calling his players "dumb" and saying both teams were undisciplined - both sides agreed cutting down on the penalties would be a key when the best-of-seven series continues Friday night in Vancouver.
The Blues had the NHL's eighth-best power play and third-ranked penalty kill in the regular season, while Vancouver was 16th in both categories.
"We have to stay out of the penalty box," Canucks center Mats Sundin said. "It's a fine line between taking penalties and being aggressive."
The tricky part will be figuring out where that line will be drawn after 50 minutes in combined penalties to open the Western Conference quarterfinal.
"I thought playoff hockey was tough hockey," Canucks forward Ryan Kesler said. "They were calling a lot of clean hits that I don't think should have been called, but we can't let it frustrate us. We have to play the same way, finish checks, but you can't be running at guys trying to take their heads off."
While the Canucks pledged more discipline, the Blues were buoyed by the fact the game remained close despite playing so poorly, failing to convert on a lengthy 5-on-3 midway through the first period, and being outshot 15-6 in the third.
Murray said he was only happy with the effort of seven of his 18 skaters, and called out his young forwards for failing to elevate their play dating to the last five or six games of the season. With 11 players getting their first taste of playoff hockey, the Blues were confident they will be better Friday.
"There was a little hesitation from a few us," said David Backes, one of four Blues forwards under the age of 26 and among the top-seven in scoring. "You don't really know what to expect as far playoff hockey, but it's a 60-minute game on the same sheet of ice, against the same players and we just need to elevate our game the way Vancouver did last night and match their intensity."
St. Louis has only dropped consecutive games twice in the last three months, and in both cases one of the losses was in overtime or a shootout. The Blues, who went into the playoffs on a 9-1-1 run, haven't lost two straight games outright since the middle of January.
|Apr 15 '09||STL 1 at VAN 2||S. Salo|
|Apr 17 '09||STL 0 at VAN 3||M. Sundin|
|Apr 19 '09||VAN 3 at STL 2||S. Bernier|
|Apr 21 '09||VAN 3 at STL 2 - OT||A. Burrows|