Quantcast 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs - Western Conference Round One: Vancouver Canucks vs Chicago Blackhawks
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2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs – First Round Series Recap

Western Conference Quarterfinals Game 2 - Vancouver 4, Chicago 3 – Canucks lead series, 2-0

 

The Vancouver Canucks watched past postseason demons race to the surface of memory Friday night at Rogers Arena in the province of British Columbia. Time and again, the haunting presence of yesteryear emerged in the minds of a team that has failed to close the sale against the Chicago Blackhawks. Everyone who wears the blue of the Canuck Nation was thinking those two nasty words, “Not again,” as a wild third period unfolded in the second game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

This time, though, Vancouver held firm, and now, a nemesis doesn’t seem to be as imposing as it once was.

You know the story – the last two postseasons, the Blackhawks have dismissed the Canucks from the stage. Last year was particularly bitter for Vancouver: The boys from B.C. rolled to an easy Game 1 win and were in control of Game 2 in the third period before a multi-goal Chicago rally stole that contest and reversed the entire flow of the series. The Blackhawks made Canuck goaltender Roberto Luongo sag under postseason pressure, wearing down their West Coast foe and leaving a trail of tears in the city that hosted the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. With all this in mind, the present moment created quite the crunch-time crucible for the Canucks on Friday.

Having won Game 1, Vancouver then busted out to a two-goal lead in Game 2 thanks to goals by Jannik Hansen and Daniel Sedin. Coach Alain Vigneault’s top-seeded team exhibited complete command of a Blackhawk bunch that looked slow and tired. It seemed as though this series was going to remain entirely in the grip of the President’s Trophy winner, but then, like historical clockwork, it happened.

Chicago got off the mat.

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Most hockey pundits felt that the Blackhawks were done and dusted after Vancouver’s Alexander Edler scored on a deflection with just 14 seconds left in the second period to give the home team a 3-1 lead after a Chicago goal roughly five minutes before. As the teams headed to the locker room for the second intermission, Vancouver had not just a two-goal edge, but a spring in its step. Chicago trudged off the ice with slumped shoulders, not the sign of a proud defending champion looking to gain another Stanley Cup. However, because this is Vancouver-Chicago, the Blackhawks made a third-period move anyway. Viktor Stalberg scored unassisted at 1:56 of the third to make the score 3-2, and even after Sedin scored his second goal of the night at 10:06, Ben Smith notched his own second goal at 12:50 to push the score to 4-3 in favor of the Canucks. Rogers Arena was filled with a certain sense of dread, and in light of the past two playoff exits at the hands of the Blackhawks, that instinct was understandable. Chicago and coach Joel Quenneville were bearing in on the top seed, and history was in the process of repeating itself.

This is where the script changed. For once, Vancouver didn’t buckle in the face of a Chicago assault. Luongo, who gave up some inexcusably juicy rebounds earlier in the game, tucked away all the pucks that came his way in the final few frantic minutes of regulation. Chicago put an extra attacker on the ice for the final 90 seconds as goalie Corey Crawford went to the bench, but the Hawks couldn’t solve Luongo, and now, Vancouver owns a legitimate series advantage, something much more than the uneasy one-game lead it possessed after Wednesday night’s victory. With two more wins, the Canucks will get rid of their worst nightmares, and that’s precisely what they need to finally put together a big playoff push.

 

 

 

By: Matt Zemek
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
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