CHICAGO – The Chicago Blackhawks made quick work of Olympic gold medal-winning goalie Roberto Luongo and the Vancouver Canucks.
Andrew Ladd, Duncan Keith, Troy Brouwer, Kris Versteeg and Jordan Hendry scored first-period goals to chase Luongo in the Blackhawks’ 6-3 victory Friday night. Marian Hossa added a goal and assist, and Jonathan Toews had two assists to help Chicago win for the sixth time in seven games and pull into a first-place tie with San Jose in the Western Conference.
Keith and Toews, along with Chicago’s Brent Seabrook, also played on Canada’s Olympic team. On Friday, the Blackhawks pounced on the Canucks’ coverage mistakes, as well as miscues by Luongo, to take early control against the conference foe they eliminated from the playoffs last spring.
“We have a good rivalry with these guys, so we wanted to come out hard and set the tone early,” Keith said. “It was good win. We know these guys have a good team and we might we might see them down the road. We were trying to do our thing. Getting the puck down low and creating havoc.”
The game included ongoing skirmishes, but the Blackhawks made their point on the scoreboard by buzzing and cross-circuiting the Canucks defence.
“It was a good start for us emotionally,” Ladd said. “It was great obviously getting contributions from a lot of different guys. We got a couple of good bounces, too. We kept simple and got pucks in the net.”
Luongo, making his second start since backstopping Canada to the Olympic title Sunday, was replaced by Andrew Raycroft to start the second. He exited the game after allowing the five first-period goals on 14 shots and slamming his stick on the bench.
“I don’t think we had a great period and I don’t think we were ready to play,” Luongo said. “Unfortunately, I felt good. That’s the sad part. I felt ready. I felt sharp. And the goals kept going in.
“I didn’t want to be in there for a dozen, so you might as well take me out after the first.”
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault had the same assessment.
“Without a doubt in that first period they were the much better team with Grade A chances and they were able to bury the chances,” Vigneault said. “Tonight was a playoff atmosphere and we just didn’t respond the way we have to to be successful in this type of game.”
Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows and Mikael Samuelsson scored for the Canucks, whose two-game winning streak ended.
Chicago’s Cristobal Huet stopped 20 shots. He made his second straight start after Antti Niemi started five in a row for the Blackhawks.
Luongo and Vancouver’s defence struggled in a chippy first period, and Chicago built a 5-1 lead.
Luongo made three tough saves during an early 5-on-3 Chicago power play, then allowed a soft goal to Ladd at 3:48. Ladd shovelled a backhander on goal from the right boards that deflected off the shaft of Luongo’s stick and wobbled in.
After the Blackhawks killed a 5-on-3 Vancouver advantage a few minutes later, they took charge.
Keith’s power-play goal at 10:22 made it 2-0. With Luongo down and a wild scrum in front of the net, Keith aimed in a high shot from 40 feet out in the slot.
Brouwer made it 3-0 just 31 seconds later. He drove to the net and rammed in the puck after Luongo deflected Niklas Hjalmarsson’s centring pass.
Kesler fooled Huet with a screened shot from right circle with 5:51 left in the first to cut it to 3-1. But Versteeg replied 59 seconds later when he skated unchecked from left wing, cut across the crease and beat Luongo high on the glove side.
Hendry, a defenceman, scored his first goal of the season with 43 seconds left when he took a centring pass from Toews and drove down the slot to the net.
Burrows cut it to 5-2 at 2:05 of the second. He blew past the Chicago defence fired a shot that went in off the post.
Hossa scored on a screened shot late in the third – a second after a Chicago power play expired – to make it 6-2.
Samuelsson completed the scoring on a screened shot with 2:51 left in the third.
NOTES: The Canucks played the 11th game of the NHL-record 14-game trip interrupted by the Olympic break. They’re 6-5-0 on the trip, which ends March 10 at Phoenix. … Vancouver D Andrew Alberts, acquired from Carolina on Wednesday, played his first game with the Canucks. He fought Chicago D Brent Seabrook midway through the first period. … Chicago evened its season series with the Canucks at 2-2-0 in the final regular-season meeting between the teams. … Canucks RW Steve Bernier missed his second game and has returned to Vancouver to be evaluated for an abdominal injury.