By Brad Gardner
The Chicago Blackhawks were throttled early in Vancouver and the Canucks did not let their foot of the gas pedal, taking a 3-1 victory over the top team in the Western Conference. Daniel Sedin assisted on the eventual game-winner and scored a goal of his own late in the second period.
Cory Schneider got the win for the Canucks by stopping 24 of the 25 shots he faced. Corey Crawford faced a far greater number of quality chances and came away with 29 saves in the loss.
Although the Blackhawks came into Monday’s games with a chance to clinch the President’s Trophy, the Pittsburgh Penguins came away with a 3-1 victory in Ottawa, keeping the President’s Trophy out of the Blackhawks’ reach on Monday. With three games left to play for each team, Chicago still holds a three-point lead over Pittsburgh for the league’s best record.
The Canucks clinched the Northwest Division title, ensuring that they will not meet the Blackhawks earlier than the Western Conference finals.
The Blackhawks were greeted by a hostile environment from the drop of the puck. The Canucks wasted no opportunities at driving a visiting player into the boards and made life hell for the defensemen going back to retrieve pucks.
Alex Burrows made sure Crawford was in the game with a quick look during the first shift, and the Canucks continued to out-chance the visitors as well. Vancouver had several odd-man rushes in the early going, but Crawford came up with big saves on chances from the likes of Chris Higgins and Derek Roy.
A pair of power play opportunities for the Canucks helped them keep the pressure on, and Jannik Hansen finally got the home team on the board at 14:28 of the first period during the power play. With the Blackhawks unable to clear the zone, Dan Hamhuis sent a D-to-D pass to Jason Garrison, who fired the puck towards the net. Johnny Oduya tried to deflect it away with his stick, but instead redirected it off the skate of Hansen in front of the net and past Crawford.
The Canucks finished the first period with an 11-5 lead in shots, not even counting the 12 Vancouver shots that were blocked by the Hawks in the first twenty minutes, and a 14-3 lead in the hits column.
Chicago’s power play unit, which came into the game having converted four of it’s last seven chances, could not register a shot in it’s first look midway through the second period.
Shortly after the penalty expired, Zack Kassian was on the receiving end of a centering pass from Daniel Sedin and one-timed the puck past Crawford. Kassian held his ground in front of the net against Niklas Hjalmarsson and Sedin was able to thread his pass through Duncan Keith on the play to help put the Canucks up 2-0.
Vancouver extended the lead to 3-0 before the end of the second period on a breakaway goal by Daniel Sedin. Henrik’s outlet pass sprung Daniel for a wide open look against Crawford, and after getting Crawford down with a deke, Daniel finished it off with a backhand shot to make it 3-0 going into the second intermission.
Shots evened up in the second period, but the Canucks remained relentless in the physical game. The home team didn’t pass up any opportunity to finish their checks, leading in hits 32-11 after the second period.
Although the Blackhawks seemed to have their legs under them a bit more in the third period, they put themselves on the PK three times in the final frame. The Blackhawks power play had one opportunity of it’s own but could not convert.
It took a lucky bounce off a referee’s skate behind the net to get the Blackhawks on the board. Hjalmarsson put the puck on goal with Jonathan Toews and Daniel Carcillo battling in front. The Canucks were able to get the puck behind the net, but Tom Sestito’s clearing attempt deflected off the skate of the referee and directly to the stick of Carcillo. He flipped a quick backhand shot between Schneider and the post to make it a 3-1 score at the 11:50 mark of the third period.
Joel Quenneville sent the extra attacker out with just over two and a half minutes remaining and a draw in the Blackhawks’ offensive zone. They were able to keep the puck in the zone for a majority of the remaining time but did not register too many prime scoring chances against Cory Schneider.
– Crawford did his part to keep the Hawks in the game, coming up with a handful of big saves against the waves of attackers that Vancouver sent early in the game. The Blackhawks gave up a lot of odd-man rushes on Monday and the defensemen did not do many favors for Crawford.
– The loss was only the Blackhawks’ sixth loss in regulation this season and only the third time they have been beaten by two goals or more.
– Blackhawks PK had given up one power play goal against in their last 36 opportunities coming into the game in Vancouver.
– In addition to the Canucks finishing checks, there was the usual sort of extracurricular activities between the Western Conference rivals. Jonathan Toews and Ryan Kesler had a couple conversations over the course of the game.
– 3 Stars of the game: 3. Frank Corrado… 2. Henrik Sedin… 1. Daniel Sedin.
– Dave Bolland left the bench in the first period and did not return. Marcus Kruger and Sheldon Brookbank also went to the room after blocking a shot in the opening frame but each eventually returned.
– The Canucks blue line was without Kevin Bieksa and Keith Ballard. Former Hawk Cam Barker drew into the Vancouver lineup, as did rookie defenseman Frank Corrado, who made his NHL debut in his eighth career professional game.
– The Hawks will take on the Edmonton Oilers at 8:30pm central Wednesday night at Rexall Place.