Their playoff status has improved slightly to serious from critical, but the Vancouver Canucks’ Stanley Cup hopes are still at death’s door.

The Canucks avoided elimination by showing poise and confidence in beating the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1 Sunday night. Vancouver still trails 3-2 in the NHL Western Conference semifinal and must win tonight’s Game 6 at GM Place (CBC, 6:30 p.m. PST) to push the best-of-seven series to the limit.

“It’s going to get tougher and tougher every game, we know that,” centre Henrik Sedin said after stepping off a flight from Chicago yesterday afternoon. “They are the favourites. They finished ahead of us in the standings.

“We have to go out there and play our game like we did the last game and try and be relaxed.”
Game 7 would be Thursday in Chicago.

Many people, even hard-core fans, were ready to pull a white sheet over the Canucks after two disastrous losses at GM Place left Vancouver down 3-1 in the series.

“Will is a big part of it,” said defenceman Kevin Bieksa, who scored twice and added an assist in Sunday’s win. “We’re a desperate team right now because if we lose, we go home.”

Goaltender Roberto Luongo shook off some criticism from his own coach and was nearly unbeatable in stopping 29 shots on Sunday. The Canucks refused to be intimidated by Chicago and didn’t retaliate to cheap shots, even when Daniel Sedin took a vicious slash to his ankle.

Vancouver killed four penalties and scored once on the power play. The Canucks stopped Chicago from making stretch passes out of their own end and prevented the Blackhawks from creating a traffic jam in front of Luongo.

Mission accomplished. Now they have to do it again. Then again.

“We all have to step it up as a team,” said Luongo. “If we want to move on we have to play the best hockey we have played all year as a team.”

Ruptured testicle?
• Coach Alain Vigneault refused to reveal any more details of the injury to defenceman Sami Salo.

• The often-injured Finn was taken to hospital in Chicago after being hit in the groin area by a Duncan Keith shot at the end of the second period. Vigneault refused to comment on speculation Salo suffered a ruptured testicle.

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