VANCOUVER – Daniel Sedin said the Vancouver Canucks approached their Friday date with the Chicago Blackhawks like a normal game.
It ended up looking more like the playoff battles these two teams have become known for.
Sedin scored the winning goal with four minutes left and the Canucks beat the Blackhawks 4-3 in a fierce matchup between the two NHL arch-rivals.
The teams played at a furious pace after a tight opening period of a game that featured desperate diving shot blocks, solid goaltending, three lead changes and as many ties.
“I think it was a good approach to the game today,” Sedin said after his 28th goal of the season. “We approached it like a normal game and we came up with the win.”
Sedin took brother Henrik’s pass in the slot and his shot hit Chicago defender Dave Bolland before the puck rose just over the blocker of Chicago goalie Marty Turco.
“We can’t really focus too much on who we’re playing against,” Sedin said. “We’ve got to focus on how we’re playing and we did that tonight.”
Coach Alain Vigneault, whose special teams shone with five penalty kills and two power-play goals, was only a little more forthcoming.
“Obviously, we knew we were playing against the Stanley Cup champions,” Vigneault said. “But to say there would be more at stake than two points would be false.”
Sedin also drew an assist to raise his points total to 69 and take the NHL scoring lead from Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos.
“Now I know what it feels (like) to be up there,” said Daniel whose brother won the Art Ross Trophy last season.
“It’s a good feeling when you’re winning games. It’s a confident group in here and it’s good to be a part of it.”
Vancouver also needed 42 saves, including 18 in the final period, from goalie Roberto Luongo to record a fifth straight victory and extended their overall NHL lead to four points over Philadelphia.
They also lead second-place Detroit by nine points in the battle for top spot in the Western Conference.
Chicago, which ousted Vancouver from the last two Stanley Cup playoffs in bitterly contested six-game series and beat the Canucks 7-1 here in November, remained ninth in the West.
Christian Ehrhoff, Mikael Samuelsson and Henrik Sedin also scored for the Canucks who lead the NHL this late in the season for the first time in the club’s 40-year history.
Jonathan Toews, Nick Boynton, with his first goal in 69 games, and Bolland scored for Chicago.
“It was a pretty intense game, playoff-type atmosphere (and) we scored some big goals in the third period, especially after they got the lead,” Luongo said. “We didn’t quit, we kept at it.”
He had help from his posts and defenceman Aaron Rome who blocked a late Chicago scoring attempt with the Canuck netminder on his stomach.
Luongo hasn’t lost a game in regulation time since Dec. 5, going 14-0-5 in his last 19 starts.
“He’s been on a roll for a couple of months,” Henrik Sedin said after Luongo twice robbed defenceman Brian Campbell, once with his glove and once with a pad.
“It’s great to see. That’s what we need from both goalies.”
Luongo also got a break when an apparent Bolland goal was waved off when Troy Brouwer was called for goaltender interference.
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville thought Erhohoff’s opening goal was offside as the Canuck defenceman had to hustle to keep the puck in the Blackhawk zone.
“On the bench it looked like it could have been (offside) but on the replay it verified it,” said Quenneville, whose club lost for the third time in four games.
“I thought we played pretty well. tough loss. We’ll find a way to win if we keep playing like that.”
Turco, who has a 19-9-2 career record against the Canucks, said he was too deep in his net on Sedin’s winner.
“You just don’t see the puck,” he said after a 28-save performance. “When I finally caught up to it, it was on its way up.
“In retrospect, I should have had a little bit more patience. You react and trust your instincts. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the right one.”
Notes:The Canucks have gone 24-4-6 since the 7-1 loss to the Hawks who are 19 points behind the NHL leaders …. Boynton hadn’t scored since Nov. 27, 2009 … Aaron Rome, who missed eight games with a knee injury, returned to the Canuck blue-line … he replaced rookie Lee Sweatt … it was the Blackhawks’second of a six-game road trip … they face the Calgary Flames on Monday and the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday … Chicago plays 18 of its remaining 30 games away from the United Center.