Blues vow to bounce back in series
One win away from a first-round playoff sweep, the Vancouver Canucks are anything but cocky heading into Game 4 against the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 8 p.m. ET).
The Blues, meantime, are a loss away from making their first post-season appearance in five years a colossal dud — but are not panicking.
The Canucks will attempt to neutralize another sellout crowd Tuesday with the no-frills road-game mentality they used in the regular season.
All sweep talk was steered away Monday as easily as Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo has handled shots in this series.
"Nobody's going to talk about that stuff," said Canucks forward Steve Bernier, who scored the go-ahead goal in a 3-2 victory Sunday night that put Vancouver up 3-0 in their Western Conference quarter-final.
"We came to St. Louis with one thing in mind: play shift to shift and not try to do everything extraordinary."
The Blues will lean on the second-half success that launched them from last in the conference to sixth place, despite injuries to keynote players like Paul Kariya, Eric Brewer and Erik Johnson.
They finished the regular season 9-1-1 to qualify with one game to go before running into Luongo and company.
"We've been counted out before and surprised people, so we're not going to dwell on the past three games or it's just going to drag you down," Blues forward David Backes said. "One game at a time.
"You've got to get the first one in your bag, and, hopefully, they haven't cancelled our [return] trip to Vancouver because we plan on using that plane."
'Paul will tell me when he is ready'
Kariya could return for a must-win game two days after coaches decided following his first full workout with the team that he needed more time.
The star forward is coming off a pair of hip operations, the last in February, and hasn't played since early November.
"He feels good; he's skating well out there," Blues head coach Andy Murray said. "Paul will tell me when he is ready to play."
Canucks centre Mats Sundin said Monday his groin injury wasn't much better, a day after he was a lineup scratch.
Sundin, who scored the go-ahead goal in Game 2, said his status will probably be determined at the morning skate on Tuesday.
"Obviously, you want to be out there and playing every shift and every game, especially this time of year," the 38-year-old Sundin said. "Hopefully, it progresses along as quickly as possible."
Even without Sundin, the Canucks relied on special teams to take a commanding series lead.
Vancouver scored all three goals on the power play, going 3-for-5, while shutting out the Blues on six chances with the man advantage.
'A matter of not bearing down'
The Blues are 1-for-17 on the power play in the series.
They've totalled three goals overall while getting stymied by Luongo and a pesky penalty-kill unit that seldom allowed St. Louis to even set up shop in the offensive zone in Game 3.
St. Louis was third overall on the penalty kill and eighth on the power play in the regular season but might be a bit intimidated by Luongo.
Even when in position in Game 3, they seemed to wait for the perfect shot.
"It's been a matter of not bearing down and burying them when we've had the chance," said forward Brad Boyes, who led the Blues with 33 goals in the regular season.
"The power play has got to score goals. If not that, then we've got to find a way 5-on-5 to score."
The Sedin twins have been the offensive stars of the series despite intense scrutiny from the Blues' defence.
Daniel Sedin scored his second goal of the series in Game 3, and Henrik Sedin set up the go-ahead goal in the third period, deftly deflecting an off-target slapshot that bounced off the end boards to Steve Bernier alone in front of the net.
"They think that being extra physical and sometimes even dirty on them, that's going to take away from their game," Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault said. "The twins don't back down.
"To the contrary, that probably motivates them more to play harder and better, and that's what they've shown so far in this series."