Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Canucks Sweep Blues With OT Thriller

The Canucks are the first team in the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs to have progressed on to the 2nd round. For the first time in franchise history, the Canucks sweep an opponent in a seven game series after pulling out a 3-2 win in overtime against the St. Louis Blues Tuesday night.

Vancouver opened the scoring after a careless turnover inside the Blues line. Carlo Colaiacovo's up-ice pass was picked off by Kyle Wellwood, who made no mistake on his breakaway deek move to beat goalie Chris Mason. Wellwood's first in his playoff career came unassisted at 5:20.

The Blues were inches away from tying the contest up with about six minutes remaining in the period. B.J. Crombeen's shot from the right face off circle had Roberto Luongo beat along the ice, but the puck wound up going off the skate of Alexander Edler at the middle of the goal line and wide to the corner boards.

Both teams had decent chances in the early stages of the 2nd period. Mason came up with a big stop off of Henrik Sedin in the opening minute while Luongo robbed Keith Tkachuk on a solid pad save following a bullet of a slap shot from high in the slot.

The Canucks made it a 2-0 game just prior to the midway point of regulation time. Willie Mitchell fed a pass across the line for Shane O'Brien who stepped into a slap shot. His drive wound up deflected out of mid-air by Alex Burrows and into the Blues net. Burrows 2nd of the series came at 9:23 and put Vancouver in the driver's seat.

The crowd at the Scottrade Center were able to get out of their seats a few shifts later as Brad Boyes beat Luongo on his own rebound opportunity. Barret Jackman chips in the lone assist as Boyes nets his 2nd of the series at 13:30.

The Blues used that goal as motivation and were full value to tie things up as David Perron beat Luongo on the short side. David Backes and Andy McDonald hit the score sheet as Perron gets his first ever playoff goal at 16:54.

Just over a minute later, the Blues looked like they pulled into the lead as the puck got across the goal line in a wild goal-mouth scramble. However, Luongo had been knocked into his net at the time and the referees determined the whistle had been blown before the puck entered the net. It was a huge bullet dodged by the Canucks who escaped the period on level terms.

The final frame brought with it chances at both ends, but Luongo and Mason stood tall, combining for 21 saves and forcing the game to overtime.

The Blues had the better of the chances in the extra session, thanks in part to getting to go to work on three power plays. Daniel Sedin took a tripping penalty at 6:22 but the Cnaucks did a good job killing it off. They were put to a bigger test soon after though as Ryan Kesler was assessed a double minor for high sticking. Luongo and the penalty killers in front of him stood tall and eventually forced the game back to even strength hockey.

Just when it looked like the game would have to go to a fifth period, the Canucks had other ideas. Mitchell got a pass up the right wing for Burrows who got a step on Jackman. He released a snap shot that fooled Mason which found its way through the pads of the netminder. Burrows, who scored one overtime marker during the regular season, sealed the series for Vancouver with his third of the series at 19:41.

For the third time in four games, Luongo was named 1st star. There was no argument on his selection in the series finale, as the Blues out-shot the Canucks 49-36. The Canucks went 0-for-3 on the power in Game 4 and finished the series 4-for-18. Even more impressive was the Canucks effort on the penalty kill, going 7-for-7 on the night and a whopping 23-for-24 in the four games.

Now with a lengthy break ahead of them, the Canucks won't be back on the ice for practice until Friday. They'll do plenty of scoreboard watching over the next few days in preparation for whoever they'll face in the Western Conference Semi Finals.

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