Thursday, April 30, 2009

Roller Coaster Victory For Canucks In Game 1 vs Hawks

By no means was it a conventional way to win an opening game of the playoff series for the Canucks. However, they’ll take what they got Thursday night as Vancouver opened up their Western Conference semi final series with a 5-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks.

Despite not having played for nine days, the Canucks were well-deserving to have the lead heading into the first intermission break. While on a power play, Kyle Wellwood was able to get the puck to the left corner for Mats Sundin. He wasted no time feathering a great pass across the crease to Pavol Demitra on the opposite side of the net. Demitra managed to scoop a shot past Nikolai Khabibulin for his first goal of the post-season. Demitra’s first goal in eight straight games came at 15:22.

Early on in the 2nd period, Vancouver built on their lead. Daniel Sedin took a pass behind the Hawks net from Steve Bernier and immediately dished the puck in front for his brother. Henrik Sedin’s close range chance found its way through the pads of the Chicago netminder. For Henrik, it was his 2nd of the playoffs put the home team up by a pair at 5:13.

On the next shift, a scary incident occurred when Ben Eager hit Rick Rypien at the Hawks blue line in the head well away from the puck. Rypien was alright and Eager only received two minutes for roughing. However, the NHL head office will likely review the tape of the incident as it was definitely a hit that border-lined on an offense that warrants a suspension.

Before the before was over, the Canucks made it a 3-0 contest on a goal similar to the one Sedin scored. This time it was Wellwood behind the goal finding Ryan Kesler at the top of the crease. The recent nominee for the Frank J. Selke Trophy buried his first ever NHL playoff goal, with Alexander Edler notching the other assist at 15:23.

The Canucks looked to have things in total control heading into the third period. They had not allowed a goal against in the final frame of regulation so far in the playoffs, but that all changed 61 seconds into the frame. Patrick Kane was able to roof a snap shot from the left face off circle over the shoulder of Roberto Luongo. Duncan Keith and Martin Havlat help Kane net his third goal of the playoffs for the visitors.

Darcy Hordichuk found himself in the penalty box at the midway point of the period on a roughing call and the Hawks made him pay. Brent Seabrook’s shot would be denied by Luongo, but the rebound would be gobbled up by Kane and stuffed home. Kris Versteeg hits the score sheet on Kane’s second of the period and it came at 10:11.

In their opening round series against the Calgary Flames, the Hawks were able to erase a three-goal deficit on the road in Game 4. They did it again at GM Place on this night as Dave Bolland deposited a rebound chance for his first ever NHL playoff goal. Keith and Eager collect the assists on the Hawks equalizer at 14:31.

Just when it looked like the game was destined for overtime, the Canucks found a way to get the lead back and it came in a very unusual manner. A turnover occurred inside the Vancouver line and the Canucks were able to break up the ice in a 4-on-1 rush. Mason Raymond carried the puck up the left wing and fed a great pass across the slot to Bernier. His one-timer was denied on a great save by Khabibulin, but the rebound would be shoveled in by Sami Salo. For Salo, who had the game winner in the series opener against the St. Louis Blues, he winds up doing the same against Chicago. His 2nd of the playoffs also proved to be his first even-strength goal of the year at 18:47.

The Hawks were able to get their net empty and have the extra attacker on the ice for the final few shifts of the game. However, the Canucks got free out of their own end with the puck and Alex Burrows gave the puck to a wide open Ryan Johnson, who had little trouble netting the insurance goal the Canucks needed to seal the win. Johnson’s first ever playoff goal came with 16 seconds left on the clock.

Final shots on net favoured Chicago 31-27 in a game which saw the home team have a total of 32 shots that were credited as shots that were either blocked or missed the net. The Canucks capped off the night going 1-for-7 on the power play while the Blackhawks went 1-for-3. Vancouver was very strong in the face off circle, winning 63% of the draws in the game.

Having gone undefeated in their first five playoff games, the Canucks extend their winning streak to eight straight overall. Wellwood, who was named the game’s 2nd star, extended his point scoring streak to three straight games (1g,3a).

Game 2 of this series will take place Saturday night at GM Place. Face off will be 6:00pm PST.

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