For the first time in their second-round series with the Blackhawks, the Canucks find themselves in trouble.

Sure, some people were sounding the alarm bells after a 6-3 loss in Game 2; others voiced their concern after Chicago’s come-from-behind overtime win in Game 4.

The significant difference between those two wins and the most recent one for the Hawks is the role of the Canucks in the victories.

In Games 2 and 4, Chicago capitalized on a variety of Vancouver breakdowns; in Game 5, the Blackhawks created their own opportunities as a result of aggressive, physical play. Trailing 2-1 midway through the game, the Hawks made a concerted effort to engage the Canucks in scrums and trash-talking after the whistle.

They challenged Vancouver at every opportunity and eventually it worked; the Canucks took a debatable two-minute penalty that resulted in the tying goal.

The referee’s decision to give Kevin Bieksa the extra roughing penalty was questionable, but there’s no question that the Hawks goaded Bieksa into reacting.

From there, Chicago continued to press, outscoring the Canucks in the third period for the fourth time this series. The outcome could have been different had Kyle Wellwood’s shot bounced in instead of out when it ricocheted off the post halfway through the final frame, but the team that carried the play in final thirty minutes was rewarded with the victory.

Not all is lost, of course. Vancouver has been excellent on the road in the playoffs, and was less than three minutes away from sweeping the Blackhawks in Chicago last week.

But if the Canucks are to force a Game 7 in this series, they must reverse a troubling trend that has seen the Blackhawks get stronger over the past two games while the locals have seen their overall play regress.

– Scott Rintoul is a college athlete, sports fan and broadcaster. He can be heard Monday-Friday on the TEAM 1040 from 6-9 a.m. scott.rintoul@team1040.ca.

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