CHICAGO – Roberto Luongo made an early lead stand up and the Vancouver Canucks regained home-ice advantage by beating the Chicago Blackhawks 3-1 Tuesday night.
The win gave Vancouver a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference semifinal.
Burned by the Blackhawks’ speed in the first two games, the Canucks were able to offset it with better puck control and an aggressive physical defence, despite the absence of versatile defenceman Sami Salo, who missed the game with an injury.
Game 4 is back at the United Center on Thursday night before the series returns to Vancouver for Game 5 on Saturday night.
After surrendering eight goals in the first two games of the series at Vancouver, Luongo finished with 23 saves Tuesday, including a spectacular stop on Dave Bolland when the Blackhawks had a power play early in the third period.
Mason Raymond scored for the Canucks late in the first to give them the lead for the third straight game, and Steve Bernier’s goal during a power play early in the second put Vancouver up by two. Henrik Sedin’s fourth goal of the playoffs made it 3-0 in the second.
But Brian Campbell’s slap shot from the high circle on a power play – with Chicago’s burly Dustin Byfuglien in the crease – cut the lead to 3-1 as the United Center crowd that had been quiet for most of the night quickly erupted, hoping that another comeback was on its way.
But Luongo didn’t let this lead slip. The Blackhawks had rallied from 3-0 and 2-0 deficits in Games 1 and 2 and earned a split, but there was no comeback this time. Luongo also made a nice stop on Jonathan Toews with about 10 minutes left when the Blackhawks captain tried to stuff the puck in from the side.
Vancouver’s first goal came as Ryan Kesler was being hit and knocked off his feet by Chicago’s Ben Eager. At the last second, he dished the puck off to Raymond, who beat Nikolai Khabibulin for his first career playoff goal and a 1-0 lead.
With Vancouver on a power play that had started with 40 seconds left in the first on a hooking call against Patrick Kane, Bernier manoeuvred in front of the net and knocked in a rebound off Alexander Edler’s shot from the point.
With both teams down a man and after a turnover by the Blackhawks, Henrik Sedin scrapped for the puck at the side of the goal and eventually poked it under Khabibulin’s pads for a three-goal lead.
Khabibulin made 18 saves.
Notes: Salo didn’t play after being injured in Game 2, but reports said he was on his way to Chicago and could back for Game 4. RW Pavol Demitra, also shaken up in the second game, was out with an injury and will be re-evaluated in a week, the team said. … Canucks LW Taylor Pyatt played for the first time since the death of his fiancee in a car crash in early April. … Former Blackhawks great Bobby Hull dropped the ceremonial first puck.