Blues hope to bounce back vs. Canucks in Game Two

St. Louis at Vancouver, Western Conference quarterfinal, Game Two, 10:00 p.m. EST

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

“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.”

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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.