They were an offensive powerhouse in the regular season — one of the top-scoring teams in the NHL from Christmas on — but it was a defensive approach that permitted the Canucks to advance past the Dallas Stars in the Stanley Cup playoffs last night.
And, oh yes, their goaltender had a little something to do with it, as well.
And let’s not forget Lady Luck. She contributed significantly with about four minutes left in the third period, and with the Canucks clinging to a 2-1 lead. That was when veteran Mike Modano fired one of the few shots that actually beat the Vancouver goalie, Roberto Luongo, but it rang off the crossbar.
And that was all she wrote for the Stars. A couple of empty-net goals, the result of blocked shots in that defensive approach of the Canucks, made it a 4-1 triumph for the home side, and one of the finest goaltending battles in post-season history ended with the second Canadian-based squad proceeding to the second round of the playoffs.
The Ottawa Senators became the first team in this country to proceed to Round 2, but they had a much easier time against the upstart Pittsburgh Penguins, winning their best-of-seven series 4-1.
The Canucks required a seventh game after failing to even score a goal against Dallas goalie Marty Turco in the fifth and sixth matches, and squandering a 3-1 advantage in the series.
Luongo, in the first playoff series of his career, insisted his teammates’ scoring drought didn’t worry him.
“You can’t let those things get to you,” he said. “I just tried to do my job and knew the guys would come through in the end.”
And they did. But, for a while there, it sure looked as though it would be another one of those unproductive nights for the Canucks, especially when they fell behind 1-0 in the first period.
“We came out nervous for the start of the game, tentative,” conceded Trevor Linden, who scored the winning goal seven minutes into the third period. “In the second period, we we got our game back in order and, in the end, we played a great game.”
Linden, the antiquated veteran who is probably playing his final games in the NHL, scored his sixth goal in Game 7s, the most among active NHL players.
Linden quickly looked ahead to the Canucks’ next series, which begins in Anaheim tomorrow night.
“The Ducks are a good team,” he allowed. “We’ll have our work cut out for us.”
They will. With Luongo in goal, however, you can’t help but sense that the Ducks are in for a battle.