The Hawks came out flying, and fed off the energy in the building. Ryan Kesler was flying to start, with a couple shots on net, but the Hawks were doing the same. They would get the chance to do something on the man advantage, for the first time of several, when Ehrhoff was called for tripping Kruger.
It took all of five seconds. Toews won a faceoff, got in Kesler’s way just enough that he was late getting to the point ( but did manage to screen his goalie trying to block the shot ), and Keith blasted it high into the corner for the first lead of the series for the Hawks.
The home team was pressing, and hitting, including big John Scott, who was inserted into the line up to bring “size” as Coach Quennville said. But it would be the Canucks that would find themselves down again, when Raffi Torres tried to throw a hit on Campbell and was judged to have roughed him.
The tighter standard seemed to be confusing the Canucks, and they were forced back onto the penalty kill. As always, the best penalty killer is the goaltender, and Luongo made three quick saves on Sharp, Keith and Seabrook before Kevin Bieksa was sent to the box for elbowing on Sharp. The Hawks now had a two man advantage for over a minute.
Luongo then showed why he is considered such a good goaltender in the NHL. He went to work on the five on three and made several great saves, the best on Kane on a rebound where it looked like he had a wide open net. Kane skated away shaking his head and wondering where the goalie from last year went.
The Canucks rode that goaltending and killed the rest of the penalty off. The game then went back to the back and forth, hard hitting we expected. That is, until the 17:20 mark, when Daniel Sedin was called for holding on Patrick Kane. It probably was a good call, but in the light of the first two games, was weak. There was a rumour going around after Game 2 that Scotty Bowman visited the referee’s room ( a BIG no no ). If so, this kind of call was grist for the conspiracy theorist’s mill.
This one was killed off easier then the first man disadvantages, and only a Keith shot got through to Luongo, which he saved easily.
The Canucks came out better to start the second, and all four lines had time in the offensive zone. Hossa and Frolik tested Luongo, but the Canucks were looking more composed. It would be the Hawks that would show a lack of it when John Scott just flat out hit the guy that did not have the puck, flattening Lapierre and drawing a penalty in the offensive zone that his coach must have been very upset about.
This one also took just five seconds to cost the penalty killing team, when Henrik Sedin dug out a puck along the boards, made a nice pass back to Ehrhoff, who powdered the puck past Crawford for the game tying goal.
The Canucks drew energy from that, and Chris Higgins almost made it two when he hit the post from the slot. The pressure proved too much for the Hawks though, as Stalberg gave the puck away to Edler, who got in close, made a smart play across the crease, and watched as Daniel Sedin backhanded the puck into the open net. Two quick goals in 54 seconds quieted the United Center.
Then came the most contentious play of the evening, when Brent Seabrook went behind the net, his head turned to take a pass. Raffi Torres met him right when the puck got there, and obliterated him on a hit that looked borderline at first blush. The replays showed that his shoulder may have got the big defenseman’s chin, and he was sent off for a two minute penalty that the Chicago coach said afterwards should have been five.
In today’s NHL, I can understand the call. It was, however, to me anyhow, a hockey hit. It might be another example of the new rules. I do agree that the players’ safety is paramount. It will be interesting how it is judged by the head office.
This power play was well executed, with Toews and Kane passing the puck around before feeding Sharp in the slot, who beat Luongo cleanly for the tying goal.
Both teams pressed for the rest of the period, with chances both ways that the goalies handled. The hitting continued both ways, and it was tough getting across the blue line both ways as well. The Canucks had a couple shots in the final seconds, but the game went to the second intermission tied at two.
The third started out the same, until the 3:39 point of the period, where Oreskovich was given a penalty I did not agree with, but understand given the circumstances of the game. The Canucks penalty kill was excellent on this one.
Roberto Luomgo was forced to make a great save on Kane in close that had the winger shaking his head again, this time at the side of the net.
They built off the momentum of that, and Samuelsson rushed up ice, the point was fed to Ehrhoff, who once again got a great shot on the goalie.
The Hawks were running around trying to clear it, but Samuelsson found the puck in the slot, and calmly backhanded it into the net for what would become the winning goal.
What was impressive for the rest of the game was the way the Canucks shut down the Hawks. Even when Henrik Sedin took a penalty, it was the Canucks that had the best chance, on a shorthanded breakaway by Kesler that forced a huge save, and caused Campbell to take a penalty to take his team off the power play. Alain Vigneault pared down his lines to three, with Lapierre up with Raymond and Hansen. They did a fantastic job.
So, there you go. Canuck fans are delirious. 3-0 up on their rivals has to feel good for the players.
Tuesday night is must see viewing.