CHICAGO – Roberto Luongo and the Vancouver Canucks were determined that nothing would deter them from playing the hockey they knew they were capable of, the style that they needed against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Facing elimination in a rowdy arena, the Canucks were able to keep their composure. They steered away from ill-advised penalties and relied on Luongo for a 4-1 win Sunday night that sends the Western Conference semifinals back to Vancouver for a Game 6.
“The one thing we know is that we were not going to get frustrated no matter what happened on the ice,” Luongo said after his 29-save effort.
“We were going to stick to the game plan and not let other stuff get in the way of the way we play.”
Christian Ehrhoff had a goal 59 seconds into the game to quiet the United Center and Kevin Bieksa scored twice for the Canucks.
Vancouver gave up four power-play goals in Game 4 on Friday night when its attempt to play more physical ended up in a penalty-filled 7-4 loss that put the Canucks one defeat away from elimination.
“The two games in Vancouver obviously our emotions in some situations got the best of us,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. “We needed to be more disciplined and we were.”
The Canucks were able to be aggressive but also play smarter. They kept Chicago’s six-foot-four, 257-pound Dustin Byfuglien away from the front of the net more often and they beat the Blackhawks for the second time at the United Center in this series.
Luongo was able to get a better handle on rebounds than he had on the Canucks’ home ice.
“Sometimes you’re going to give them up and there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s a matter of how the puck hits you,” he said.
“Unfortunately in Vancouver every time there seemed there was one, it was in the net. Obviously you don’t want to give any up, but sometimes those things aren’t in your control. … Tonight, there were not a lot of scrums when there were loose pucks.”
Game 6 is Tuesday night in Vancouver and a deciding Game 7, if necessary, would be back at the United Center on Thursday night. The series winner will face San Jose.
In the first five games of the series, the home team has won just once.
” Home-ice advantage, I don’t know what it means any more,” Bieksa said.
“You go on the road and you have maybe a little bit different mentality of weathering storms and simplifying your game and maybe that benefits teams.”
The Blackhawks, who won Games 3 and 4 in Vancouver, don’t want to come back to play the Canucks in a deciding game, where a strange bounce of a puck can make a difference.
“We don’t want to go up there and lose and chance a Game 7,” Chicago’s John Madden said. “We’re playing like it’s a Game 7.”
Chicago finally scored with just more than 7 minutes left Sunday night when Jonathan Toews tipped in a long shot from between the circles by Duncan Keith. Alex Burrows added an empty-netter for the Canucks with 44.6 seconds left.
Canucks defenceman Sami Salo was injured late in the first period after apparently being hit by a puck. He did not return and was taken to a hospital for evaluation.
Salo apparently blocked a last-second slap shot from Keith in the opening period and went down in pain near the goal. He stayed on the ice for several moments after the period ended. He was able to finally get up and still doubled over, he was helped into the locker room.
“We’re a lot better team with Sami in the lineup, but injuries happen,” Bieksa said.
“The five of us, I thought, did a good job of picking up the slack.”
NOTES: Toews, who had five points Friday night, has 19 in the playoffs. … Vancouver’s Shane O’Brien was hit on the bridge of the nose by Byfuglien’s stick and need six stitches, but returned to the game.