Hockey Night In Canada Stanley Cup Playoffs 2011

Canucks defiant in defeat

Categories: Chicago Blackhawks, VAN vs. CHI, Vancouver Canucks

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Canucks forward Daniel Sedin (22) tries to tip the puck past netminder Corey Crawford in a 4-3 overtime loss to the hometown Chicago Blackhawks in Game 6 at the United Center on Sunday. (Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press) Canucks forward Daniel Sedin (22) tries to tip the puck past netminder Corey Crawford in a 4-3 overtime loss to the hometown Chicago Blackhawks in Game 6 at the United Center on Sunday. (Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press)

A 3-0 series lead has disappeared for the Vancouver Canucks. Despite playing their best game of the series, it still wasn't enough Sunday. Now the Canucks face Game 7 on Tuesday (CBC, 10 p.m. ET) and a huge question: Who will start in net?

Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault used misdirection after he decided he was going to make Cory Schneider the surprise starter. He told the media he was starting Roberto Luongo and stayed with that story Sunday morning.

Schneider played well in the net, but not out of it. Two puck-handling mistakes led to two goals. Schneider had to leave the game in the third period with leg cramps because of dehydration. It's something that has happened to him before in an AHL playoff game. The cramps started coming on in the second period.

"We thought we had it in control," Schneider said. "Maybe because it was the first playoff game and there was nervous energy [and] I was sweating a little more in a hot building.

"That 5-on-3 took a lot out of me. It's just one of those things that happened."

Luongo came in cold and had some good moments, but gave up the winner after blocking a tipped shot and falling on his belly. If he starts Game 7, it will be the most important game of his NHL career. Schneider was hooked up with an IV and was hydrated enough that he had his equipment back on and was ready to go in the overtime.

Vigneualt said he made the decision Friday on the way to Chicago by going with his gut. It couldn't have been easy to tell his former captain and a Vezina finalist he was making the switch. Vigneault tried to massage it by telling Luongo that it was much like Team Canada, which used two goalies on its way to an Olympic gold medal.

"He's just as good as I am and it doesn't matter who is in net," Luongo said. "It's a team game.

"Me and Schneids, we had the best goaltending duo all year long. I put the team ahead of myself.

"As a professional athlete, you are dealt all kinds of situations over a career and you learn to deal with it. I could have come in and not given it a chance, but I came in and fought hard."

'He's got us to where we are'

Schneider said he had mixed feelings about the decision. He was thrilled for himself. But at the same time, he understood what it meant to Luongo.

"He's the ultimate competitor," Schneider said. "He always wants to be in the net and he's got us to where we are.

"That said, he's been a fantastic teammate being supportive, going along with the coach's decision."

Canucks captain Henrik Sedin fell short of guaranteeing a Game 7 win, but he did sound as confident as he has in a week. Vancouver dominated for long stretches Sunday, especially in the second half of the game.

"They looked tired out there [and] we took over halfway through the game," Sedin said. "If we keep our pace up like we did tonight, we're going to be successful.

"It's bounces here and there. But as long as we can play like this, I'm really positive for Tuesday's game.

"We battled hard, we had a lot of chances to score. We're looking forward to Tuesday."

'We outplayed them'

The Game 6 loss could sting because it's hard to imagine the Canucks playing much better.

"It's tough when you feel like you were the better team," Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa said. "I thought we outplayed them.

"I don't think we could say that the last two games. We'll build on that."

Before the series, there were theories the Blackhawks would wear down at the end because of all the minutes their best players had been piling up late in the year.

The Canucks made several changes aside from Schneider in net. Andrew Alberts replace defenceman Aaron Rome and had to play big minutes when Sami Salo was hurt in the first period. Salo never returned.

Also, Victor Oreskovich replaced Tanner Glass and Vigneault reunited former linemates Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler. Burrows had spent the entire year playing with the Sedins. But his struggles in the playoffs were becoming legendary. He came into the game with only seven goals in 37 post-season games. He did get a goal Sunday, playing with Kesler and Mason Raymond.

"We felt we had to play a good game as a line," Burrows said. "With those two guys, they've got a tremendous amount of speed and we used that strength and I thought we did a pretty good job against their big players, but we still need to pick it up another notch."

'Big-time hockey'

The Blackhawks are a confident group and are one win away from making history. They started by beating the Canucks in Games 4 and 5 by a combined 12-2 score. Then, they gutted out Sunday's overtime win, despite being badly outplayed.

"We just have to feel like things are going to go our way," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "We have to feel like it's meant to be.

"We have a great feeling in this locker room right now and that's what you get when you win three games in a row. There's too many of these guys, even some who won the Cup last year, who didn't get to play in a Game 7 yet.

"This is big-time hockey."

Corey Crawford may have been Chicago's best player, making 12 saves in overtime.

"I don't know, I just felt focused and kind of in the zone and I think when you feel like that and you're just so focused on what you have to do, you don't really think out there," Crawford said. "You're just reacting and playing."