CHICAGO – All night long the Chicago Blackhawks seemed to have extra men on the ice. Seven power plays gave the defending Stanley Cup champions plenty of scoring chances in a game they desperately needed to win.
It’s just that Vancouver goalie Robert Luongo was there to turn most of those opportunities away.
Luongo finished with 30 saves Sunday night and the Canucks beat the Blackhawks 3-2 to take a 3-0 lead. They can complete the sweep of the opening-round series Tuesday night at the United Center.
“A couple of saves there. Just a little bit of luck and it gives me a chance,” Luongo said.
“It’s my job, obviously, to make the save at key times. Usually you get an adrenaline boost off that and obviously we were able to turn the tables and get two goals in the second. I was into the game early and into the crowd.”
Mikael Samuelsson scored the go-ahead goal in the third period in another rough-and-tumble meeting between two teams that know each other well.
The Canucks may have to finish the series without Raffi Torres, who could be in hot water with the NHL again just after returning from a four-game suspension for a hit to the head of head of Edmonton’s Jordan Eberle.
Torres was called for interference after knocking Chicago defenceman Brent Seabrook to the ice behind the net with a hard blow to the head.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was adamant that it should have been a five-minute major penalty against Torres.
“Brutal. Major. Absolutely,” Quenneville said. “He (the referee) missed it. We could have scored four goals on that play. Is it a suspension? I don’t have to worry about that. The guy didn’t even get through his first game back off one. It’s not my call.”
Christian Ehrhoff and Daniel Sedin also scored for the Canucks, who’d been knocked out of the playoffs the last two years in the second round by Chicago.
Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp had power-play goals for the Blackhawks. Keith’s goal put the Blackhawks up 1-0 and later they had a two-man advantage, but couldn’t extend the lead.
“I think Roberto did his job, a great job in the first period when we got in penalty trouble. That’s one thing against this team, they’ve got such a high level of skill and such a great power-play that you don’t want to get into penalty trouble,” Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. “Especially on that 5-on-3, he kept us in. He gave us a chance to hang around and find a way to win.”
During Chicago’s two-man advantage, Luongo had great saves seconds apart on Chicago’s two young stars, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
“I had my chances tonight. I should have buried a couple,” Kane said. “Especially on the 5-on-3—I missed a shot like that. It’s probably why the game is lost.”
Samuelsson, who missed Game 2 with an illness, scored on a second rebound at 6:48 of the third after a first attempt by Henrik Sedin went off goalie Corey Crawford.
“The rebound came out to Hank. He fanned on it a little bit, I think, but Crawford still had to make a save and he was a little bit out of position,” Samuelsson said.
John Scott, who at six-foot-eight, 258-pounds, was inserted into the Chicago lineup to give them a more physical presence, was called for interference and put Vancouver on a power play in the second.
Ehrhoff’s hard shot from between the circles went flying past Corey Crawford with Vancouver teammate Ryan Kesler providing a screen, as the Canucks tied it at 1.
Less than a minute later, Alexander Edler skated down the left side, drew Crawford’s attention and then slid the puck to a wide open Daniel Sedin, who scored easily, his third goal of the series. That made it 2-1.
But the Blackhawks responded after the Torres hit on Seabrook. With Torres in the penalty box, Sharp took a pass from Jonathan Toews and scored on the Blackhawks’ fifth power play to tie it 2-2.
“His reputation speaks for itself,” Toews said of Torres. “He’s not just going in to make a play. He’s trying to hurt one of our players. To us, that’s pretty obvious.”
The Blackhawks had four first-period power plays but converted on just one on a goal from Keith. Luongo had 15 saves in the opening period, eight during Chicago’s power plays, including three when the Blackhawks had the 5-on-3 advantage.
And early in the final period, Luongo made a nice glove save on a rebound attempt by Patrick Kane.
Toews, who got his first points of the series with two assists, won a faceoff after a tripping call on Ehrhoff, the puck went to Keith above the right circle and he fired a shot past Luongo, who was apparently screened by a teammate. The goal, just 5 seconds into the power play, gave the Blackhawks their first lead of the series. Chicago had been 0 for 5 on the power play before the score.
Crawford finished with 23 saves.
NOTES: Chicago is 2 for 12 on the power play in the series. … Daniel Sedin also had another assist, giving him five points in the three games. … Chicago RW Tomas Kopecky, forced to leave the opener because of an upper-body injury, didn’t play for the second straight game. LW Bryan Bickell, who hurt his wrist in Game 2, was also a scratch. C Dave Bolland, who missed the final 14 regular-season games and the first two of the playoffs with a concussion, could be ready for Game 4.