For at least one more game, Roberto Luongo and the Vancouver Canucks have staved off elimination. In a series that many thought would be closely played in every game, it’s been quite the opposite. Not one of the first five games has been decided by less than two goals, and the biggest surprise has been Luongo’s strong performances in Chicago, contrasted by his lack of success at home.
Luey made 29 saves on 30 shots to stop the Hawks from taking the series on home ice, and bruising blueliner Kevin Bieksa came through in the clutch with two rare goals. Probably the biggest key to the win was the fact that they stayed out of the box for the most part, keeping the Blackhawks’ lethal powerplay off the ice as much as possible, and letting their own powerplay help them out. >
Vancouver got off to a great start in this one, getting a goal from Christian Ehrhoff in the opening minute of play, and never looked back, stretching the lead to 3-0 before Jonathan Toews broke Luey’s shutout midway through the 3rd. Bieksa got his first goal of the playoffs late in the first period, jumping into an offensive rush and taking a pass from Kyle Wellwood before pulling off a pretty slick move to beat Antti Niemi. He scored a powerplay goal during the 2nd period that put the Canucks up 3-0.
The Hawks got a bit of life from Toews’ 6th goal of the playoffs but it was too little too late, and Alex Burrows’ empty net goal in the last minute sealed the deal. Certainly a disappointing result for the home town fans, but the way their club dominated at GM Place in the last two games should have them feeling pretty good about their chances in Game 6.
Luongo was torched for 12 goals in Games 3 and 4, and he’ll have to figure out what went wrong very quickly if he doesn’t want to meet the same fate he and the Canucks met with last year. Still, this is a strong young Chicago club that has gotten a taste of glory and will be satisfied with nothing less than a Stanley Cup.