With their first successful road attempt in five games, the Vancouver Canucks exorcised some demons Wednesday night in Chicago.
The scene was the United Center in Chicago Illinois, the last place the Canucks would play hockey during the 2008-09 season (in May). Many eyes have been on Roberto Luongo during the day, wondering how he would perform following an emotion filled loss in game 6 of the second round of the playoffs. The media caught footage of Roberto showing up early to the United Center, watching BlackHawk players practicing and shooting. The results of such preparation couldn’t have been more satisfying.
Luongo made some absolutely clutch saves, especially with the club down two men in the box, and a goal on the scoreboard. He was brilliant in the 3rd period, particularly during a Hawks’ 3 on 1, giving the Canucks a chance to tie the game, which they did, courtesy of Michael Grabner’s 1st NHL goal.
Willie Mitchell, who was serving the second of two Vancouver penalties, left the box, only to return moments later. But before he did, he would throw a clean hit on BlackHawks’ captain, Jonathon Toews, changing the course of the game. His huge hit drew a double minor (penalty, he received a single), and Michael Grabner would take a sacrifice feed on the powerplay from Ryan Kesler (who took a heavy check at the blueline), and knot the game at two apiece.
Three minutes later, the Canucks speedy forecheck paid off, as Mikael Samuelsson used Henrik Sedin as a decoy and wristed a laser low to (goaltender) Antti Niemi’s gloveside. Luongo continued to shut the door from there on out. “I was real excited to come back here and play even though there aren’t such great memories of last year. I knew the team wasn’t going to have a problem getting up for this one.”
They certainly didn’t, as they outshot the Hawks 31-20, the first team to acheive that feat this season. It was the teams’ 4th game in 6 nights, but now have a couple of days off, returning home to face the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday. It will be difficult to show as much heart as they did against Chicago, but with a number of key injuries, they might very well have to.