The Chicago Blackhawks were keenly aware of their undoing in the most recent matchup with the arch-rival Vancouver Canucks.
They weren’t about to let it happen again.
The leaders in the NHL’s Western Conference didn’t allow the Canucks a single power play and waltzed out of Rogers Arena Wednesday with a 5-1 victory. Just 10 days earlier, the Canucks scored five man-advantage goals in a 6-2 humiliation of the Hawks at the United Center.
“Every player in here knew about it,” forward Patrick Kane said of the need to stay out of the box. “[The coaches]didn’t need to stress it.”
Chicago, on the other hand, converted two of three power-play tries and erased an early 1-0 deficit forged by Jannik Hansen and a perfect pass from Henrik Sedin. Andrew Brunette and Kane scored during a five-minute window midway through the second, and the Blackhawks poured it on in the final eight minutes of the third period with three more goals against Canucks goalie Cory Schneider, who was subbing for an injured Roberto Luongo (upper body). Marian Hossa finished with three assists while captain Jonathan Toews had a goal and a helper.
“I don’t like how we responded,” Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said about his team’s third period. “We’re not good enough right now, and we’re aware of it.”
Chicago leads the West with 27 points, and is rebounding nicely after a first-round playoff loss to Vancouver in defence of its Stanley Cup championship last spring. The Blackhawks suffered through an extended Cup hangover in 2010-11, and the same ailment seems to be plaguing the Canucks, who advanced to the final last year and lost to Boston in seven games.
Vancouver is 9-9-1 through the first quarter of the 2011-12 season, and it lost defenceman Keith Ballard to back injury in the first period Wednesday. Vigneault did not have a prognosis for Ballard, but the Canucks are carrying two extra defencemen – Andrew Alberts and Alexander Sulzer – should they need a healthy blue-liner for Sunday’s home game against the Ottawa Senators.
The Canucks and Hawks have met 33 times, including three postseason series, in the last three-plus seasons, and their rivalry is perhaps the fiercest in the NHL. But much of the detest was hidden Wednesday as the visitors did their utmost to stay out of the box.
Chicago was called for two penalties during the course of the game, but both were offset by penalties to Vancouver players. The first imbalanced situation came at the 20-minute mark of the third period, when the game was over and antagonist Daniel Carcillo was called for slashing.
“We knew it was a huge part of the game for us tonight to stay disciplined,” Chicago defenceman Duncan Keith said. “We did a good job.”