CHICAGO – The Chicago Blackhawks are not used to being in this situation.
After eliminating Vancouver in two consecutive post-seasons, it’s the Blackhawks who have their backs against the wall this time after falling 3-2 to the Canucks on Sunday.
Vancouver leads the best-of-seven first-round series 3-0, and is a win away from exorcising some playoff demons and cutting the Blackhawks’ defence of their Stanley Cup title very short.
“They’re doing things they need to do to win games,” said Chicago winger Patrick Sharp. “It’s frustrating. We talked about getting our first goal early and then using the crowd to our advantage.
“We can’t hang out heads. No one is going to feel sorry for ourselves. We’ve got to gear up for Game 4.”
Chicago did everything they could to get back in the game, outshooting the Canucks 32-26 in front of a raucous United Center house. But Roberto Luongo was instrumental in helping the Canucks kill five of seven penalties, including a 5-on-3.
“If you don’t score on a 5-on-3 you generally don’t win and we had our chances,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “He made a couple of key saves on Johnny (Jonathan Toews) and (Patrick) Kane and we had three good chances.”
Previous Canuck teams, which would sometimes get rattled when playing the Blackhawks, might have folded when the penalties started to mount. This year’s edition seems to be made of sterner stuff.
“We battled, it wasn’t a perfect game, it wasn’t pretty, but sometimes on the road in the playoffs you need a couple of ugly ones,” said defenceman Kevin Bieksa, who helped kill several penalties.
“The main thing was we were resilient. We were down, we were up. They tied it, there was a lot of momentum shifts and we stuck with it.”
Solid penalty killing has been a Canucks’ specialty all year, but winger Alexandre Burrows knew his team was up against a particularly potent foe.
“Obviously we’ve been good on the PK all year,” he said. “Those two goals (were) a couple of mistakes on our part also and you’ve got to give them credit. They’ve got a great power play over there. They’ve got some world-class players who are going to make plays when you give them so many opportunities.”
Luongo turned back 30 shots and now has 85 saves while giving up just five goals through three games in the series.
“We talked a lot about staying composed before the series started,” Luongo said. “It doesn’t matter what the score is or what’s going on in the game, you want to keep your composure and play the same way. And I think that’s what we did.”