First of all, full disclosure: I was at an American League playoff Game 3 between the Toronto Marlies and the Manitoba Moose – won 2-1 by the Marlies on Tim Stapleton's Darryl Sittler-esque goal (think 1976 Canada Cup final, overtime, against Czechoslovakia and goalie Vladimir Dzurilla) – and I wasn't able to start watching the Vancouver-St. Louis game until midway through the first period. So I didn't see David Backes' goal to make it 1-0 for the Blues – but I'm sure it was a beauty.
As well, my vantage point for the Canucks-Blues and Hurricanes-Devils games is limited to one television set, just one portal between myself and two NHL rinks a couple thousand miles apart. Fortunately, the games started a half-hour apart, so I think we can watch – and blog, and blog and blog – on both contests with a modicum of credibility intact.
Here's hoping, anyhow.
Onwards, to the games:
• The Canucks kill off a 5-on-3 midway through the first period to stay within a goal. I literally walked in the door when the puck dropped to begin the man advantage, so I might have missed a scoring opportunity. But from what I saw, the Blues don't generate much in the way of chances.
• Late in the first period, a scrum develops around Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo and he leaves his crease to say something to Blues winger Alex Steen. And the next thing you know, Vancouver's Jannik Hansen has Steen by the jersey and they shirt-drag each other to center ice. No punches, but Mats Sundin's replacement (more on that soon) wisely steps up quickly in defense of Luongo.
• So, Sundin. Out with a "lower-body injury." Well, duh. At least if you saw him try to stand back up after falling to the ice behind the net in the second period of Game 2. He got up on his second attempt and skated to the bench and played a regular shift the rest of the game. But it sure looked like Sundin's groin had again betrayed him (if it wasn't already a nagging injury). A hamstring, too, is a possibility, but Sundin's groin history – which is now a first-year course at the University of Toronto – indicates the problem is in that rather sensitive area. Good news is, if the Canucks win Game 3, or at least split in St. Louis, Sundin could sit out the rest of the series, get a week or more of rest and be that much healthier – or rustier, the skeptics might say – for Round 2.
• Speaking of absent stars, Paul Kariya remained where he's been for the past 73 games: On the sidelines. Out with a hip injury since the start of November, the shifty Blues winger is close to returning, but wasn't in the lineup for Game 3. (Too bad. The Blues end up going 0-for-5 on the power play and are 1-for-17 in the series. Kariya, meanwhile, had nine power play assists in the 11 games he played back in October.)
•The Canes-Devils game has started. After watching a little more Canucks-Blues action, I flip back to Carolina and it's suddenly 1-1. Zach Parise, with his third of the playoffs and Ryan Bayda, with his first, score 31 seconds apart early in the game. (Great. Three goals in two games and I haven't seen one. Blogging is harder than I thought.)
• Finally, I bear witness to a red light. A late one, too, when Jersey vet Brian Gionta causes a forced pass with his forecheck behind the net and then intercepts a pass while standing, oh, about 15 feet away from Canes goalie Cam Ward. One deke and a five-hole later and it's 2-1 Devils with nine seconds left in the first.
• The Sedins have come to play. Early in the second period, at 7:22, one of them – Daniel? Henrik? Danrik? Heniel? – draws a slashing penalty. Thirty-five seconds later, Ohlund hammers a slapshot five-hole and it's 1-1. The next shift, the Sedins are back, they almost score, but Chris Mason comes up big and then they draw another slashing penalty, at 8:44. Forty seconds later, another Blue heads to the penalty box. A minute after that, Daniel Sedin – it was Daniel, I know, because the TV man told me so – makes it 2-1. They good, those Sedins, they good.
• Six minutes later, Andy McDonald converts a pretty David Perron pass from the corner and goes upstairs on Luongo. It's 2-2 and the third period is looming. It's also McDonald's first goal of the post-season, finally, as he's been dangerous in every game of the series.
• How do you do, Johnny Oduya? The Devils defenseman does pretty well, thank you very much. Oduya stepped up his play on the New Jersey blueline this season and he was showing off fine form in Game 3 on Sunday night, at both ends of the ice. A fine defensive play on a hard-driving Erik Cole was followed up by an offensive chance at the other end. Born in Stockholm, Oduya was drafted by Washington 221st overall in 2001, but the Devils scooped him up as a free agent in 2006 and he's played 233 regular season games in the past three years. Oh yeah, and he's been plus-48 in 157 games over the past two seasons.
• Holy Rosie LaRose, it's Chad LaRose! The third-year Canes winger, who won a Stanley Cup as a rookie in 2006, scores his first career playoff goal with less than five minutes left in the second to tie New Jersey 2-2. LaRose, who scored 19 times this year after 12 as a sophomore and just one goal (in 49 games) as a rookie, went scoreless in 21 playoff games in '06 and Carolina hadn't been back to the post-season until now.
• Change the channel and Steve Bernier scores and Vancouver takes a 3-2 lead early in the third! Sweet! Now I can't miss the goals and they're coming fast and furious. Sorta. Bernier buries a rebound from the front of the crease and Vancouver's power play is 3-for-4. Bombastic Blues rookie B.J. Crombeen draws three penalties on the night and Vancouver scores on two of them. Tough night for a tough kid.
• In the end, Luongo again is too much for the Blues and a 3-2 win means a 3-0 series advantage for Vancouver. Luongo makes an aw-shucks glove save on Steen in the final minute, a nice little exclamation point on another brilliant game by a goalie who is playing up to his high billing. The only question is: Is there one game left in St. Louis' season, or two? Vancouver's special teams come through with a perfect 5-for-5 on the penalty kill and superlative 3-for-5 – that's all of their goals, if you're counting – on the power play.
• Ahh, overtime. Thank you, Carolina and New Jersey. Will it be a 12-second Chicago special, or a six-period Mud Bruneteau bruiser? Only (over)time will tell.
• (Please excuse the previous entry…just trying to kill some intermission time with a little alliteration and a parenthesis pun.)
• As way of apology, here's some better intermission info: Martin Brodeur, the winningest goalie of all-time and the second-winningest in the playoffs, is on the cusp of a record he doesn't want: Most playoff overtime losses.. He's 11-19, one loss away from the all-time mark, including 0-5 against Carolina. Patrick Roy, meanwhile, whom Brodeur surpassed for most regular season wins, was 40-18 in playoff overtime.
• Carolina, early, carries the play. Brodeur is sharp; no signs of his anti-overtime form yet.
• Forget Brodeur. That streak is over. Zach Parise hits the Carolina blueline, veers right and then centers the puck. It bounces to Travis Zajac in the slot; Ward makes the first stop, but Zajac buries the rebound upstairs, Ward is flailing on his back after making the first save and the Hurricanes have lost the chance to go up in the series. Instead, they go into Game 4 down two games to one. They're not done…
But this blog is.
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Sam McCaig is The Hockey News' senior copy editor and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears every weekend and his column, From The Point, appears regularly.
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