VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Canucks wanted redemption in their Western Conference semifinal series against the Chicago Blackhawks.
What they got was another harsh survival lesson in the Stanley Cup playoffs, losing to Chicago in six games for the second year in a row.
“We can only learn a lesson so many times,” Daniel Sedin said Tuesday after the mistake-prone Canucks bowed out 5-1 in Game 6. “We’ve got to realize what kind of team we have here.”
The Canucks, who led the NHL with 30 home-ice wins in the regular-season, put themselves in a 1-3 series hole by taking 14 penalties in Games 3 and 4 here.
The Hawks scored six power-play goals in the 5-2 and 7-4 victories.
“Special teams are key in the playoffs, especially against a team like this,” Sedin said.
“We got by against (Los Angeles) but that was close too. If we don’t get better in those departments it’s going to be the same story again next year.”
The Canucks made no secret the Hawks were the match-up they were looking for.
When Roberto Luongo met Chicago forward Patrick Kane during the handshakes following Canada’s gold-medal victory over the U.S. at the Olympics, the Canucks goalie told him: “See you in the playoffs.”
Instead, Chicago handed the Canucks their third straight playoff loss on home ice Tuesday, outscoring them 26-14 at GM Place during in the series.
Dating back to the 2009 playoffs, the Blackhawks have won five straight in Vancouver.
“It’s disappointing to be out again against these guys,” Luongo said in a subued Canuck dressing room as players lobbed socks and sweaters into a laundry bin.
“I don’t really have any answers for you. I thought we had a good game plan coming into the series.
“We just didn’t get the job done at home which is really surprising considering we were one of the best home teams in the league.
“They made some adjustments after the first game (a 5-1 Vancouver win) and we didn’t respond.”
Coach Alain Vigneault said his club’s expectations were high against Chicago after rallying to dismiss the Los Angeles Kings in six games.
“We wanted this opportunity,” Vigneault said. “We wanted this challenge and for the second year in a row we weren’t able to get it done.”
The Hawks had no power-play goals Tuesday but pounced on Canuck errors in the second period.
Shane O’Brien made an ill-advised pinch in the Chicago zone to throw a hit when Troy Brouwer opened the scoring.
Thirty-six seconds later Kevin Bieksa overskated a puck to allow Chris Versteeg to make it 2-0.
Dave Bolland got a short-handed goal when Pavol Demitra mishandled the puck at the Chicago blue-line.
“I don’t think they’re a better team than us but maybe a smarter team,” Luongo said. “Obviously we shoot ourselves in the foot a little bit. Why that happened this year, learning from last year’s experiences…”
O’Brien shrugged through interviews, trying to find reasons for the series loss.
“If we would have said we’d win two in Chicago and lost the series you probably wouldn’t have believed it,” O?Brien said.
Vancouver’s blue-line corps was hit hard during the series. Sami Salo played in pain for 19:32 Tuesday after taking a puck in the groin on Sunday.
Alex Edler suffered a season-ending right ankle injury late in the first period when big Chicago winger Dustin Byfuglien hammered him into the end boards then fell on his leg.
“Throughout this series they came at us real hard, they made us play a physical price,” said Vigneault. “They were real tough on our defence. They didn’t slide by any hits and obviously it took its toll.”
Luongo, who wept after losing 7-5 in Game 6 last year in Chicago, offered some gallows humour when asked to compare this series loss wit last year.
“It’s different,?he said. “No matter what happened out there I’m going to leave tonight with my head up, not like last year.
“I battled for 60 minutes, kept itunder seven goals so improvement was made.”