ST. LOUIS — Roberto Luongo carried the Vancouver Canucks for two games against the St. Louis Blues. On Sunday, their special teams helped them take a 3-0 series lead.
The Canucks scored three times on the power play, including Steve Bernier’s go-ahead goal early in the third period, while again stifling the Blues’ chances with the man advantage in a 3-2 victory.
“It was a huge difference,” Luongo said. “We got some big goals and we killed some big ones off.”
Vancouver, the third seed in the Western Conference, silenced a standing-room crowd of 19,500 at the Blues’ first home playoff game in five seasons. The Canucks can finish off the sixth-seeded Blues in Game 4 on Tuesday night in St. Louis, but were far from cocky about the possibility of a sweep.
“It’s 3-0 and I think we still have to get to four,” Luongo said. “So we’ve got a big one left to win and by no means are we going to think it’s over.
“Those guys are not going to quit and we’ve got to make sure we bear down.”
Coach Alain Vigneault said the Canucks got to this point by turning the other cheek instead of retaliating.
“Our guys have been taking a lot of cheap shots so far during this series,” Vigneault said. “To respond with three goals on the power play is pretty satisfying.”
Andy McDonald, frequently frustrated by Luongo the first two games, finally broke through to tie it at two in the second period for the Blues, and also added an assist.
But St. Louis was shut out on six power plays and is 1-for-17 in the series.
“We look tight and nervous on the power play,” coach Andy Murray said. “We’ve had over five minutes of 5-on-3 in this series and really have not been the threat that we want to be. We probably had four or five good chances on the 5-on-3, but that’s not good enough against this goaltender.”
Mattias Ohlund and Daniel Sedin also scored power-play goals for the Canucks, who were strong through the last two periods after mustering just five shots and trailing 1-0 after the first.
Luongo, who allowed one goal on 56 shots the first two games, made 24 saves on the night.
The go-ahead goal was a bit of a fluke, keyed by Sami Salo’s shot from the point that took a lively bounce off the end boards right to Henrik Sedin, who redirected the puck to Bernier alone in front of the net for an easy tap-in 41 seconds into the third. Bernier scored his second career playoff goal in 26 games.
“I just had to put it in,” Bernier said. “A great feeling. It was nice execution by everybody.”
The Blues’ B.J. Crombeen was whistled for roughing at the end of the second period after charging into a scrum, putting his team at a disadvantage when play resumed.
“It’s my own stupidity that put us down and ended up costing us the game,” Crombeen said. “I didn’t control my emotions enough.”
The Canucks also capitalized on the Blues’ lack of discipline at the start of the second period, scoring a pair of power-play goals in a span of 2:25 to take their first lead.
Murray used his timeout after Ohlund’s shot from the right point squirted between Chris Mason’s pads at 7:53. But Jay McClement was whistled for holding the stick about a half-minute later, his second straight trip to the penalty box, and Daniel Sedin poked in the go-ahead goal just before a flailing Mason could glove the puck at 10:18.
The Blues were outshot 11-3 the first 12-plus minutes of the period before rallying on McDonald’s tying goal at 16:13. McDonald banged three shots off the goal post or crossbar in the Canucks’ 3-0 Game 2 victory, also Luongo’s first career playoff shutout, before finally beating the goalie off a blistering cross-ice feed from David Perron to tie it at 16:13.
David Backes’ first goal in six games gave the Blues their first lead of the series. McDonald got the puck in deep after passing off the boards to himself, and Backes scored off Brad Boyes’ feed from behind the net at 3:11 of the first.
St. Louis missed many more chances, though, totalling just three shots in 6:34 of power play time while rarely getting a chance to set up shop in the offensive zone. That included 1:26 with a two-man advantage after Willie Mitchell was whistled for a double minor midway through the period.
“To get that lead, to keep the crowd energized, was huge,” Backes said. “A few other chances that we don’t throw in the back of the net, and it ends up biting us in the butt.”
Notes: Blues F Yan Stastny skated in the pre-game after being recalled from Peoria (AHL) earlier in the day, but was among the scratches. … The Canucks scratched C Mats Sundin, who got the first goal in Vancouver’s 3-0 Game 2 victory but has been nursing a groin injury. Sundin practised Saturday before the flight to St. Louis. Vigneault said Sundin’s status is “day to day” heading into Game 4. … Backes had five goals in two games earlier this month, including four against the Red Wings on April 2, but had been limited to one assist in his previous five games.