Canucks hang on to go 2 up on Hawks
Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook were exhausted and frustrated.
Eight minutes had elapsed in the second period against the Vancouver Canucks on Friday and the Canucks already enjoyed a two-goal advantage in a contest they would hold on to for a 4-3 victory to take a 2-0 series lead.
After the Blackhawks relieved some pressure by icing the puck, Keith and Seabrook coasted back into their own end with their sticks resting across their knees. The glanced at each other as if to say, "are we ever going to score?"
Moments later, Chicago's Patrick Sharp beat Canucks centre Ryan Kesler on a draw and then Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews sent linemate Marian Hossa in for a contested breakaway. Hossa fired a shot over the net. The frustration continued for Chicago's top players.
And if the defending Stanley Cup champions hope to bounce back in this opening-round series when it returns to Chicago for Game 3 on Sunday, the likes of Toews, Sharp, Hossa, Keith, Seabrook and Patrick Kane better start playing like Chicago's best players.
"There's no looking back," Toews said afterwards. "We have to go. We're running out of time. We have to play our best hockey right now."
Toews didn't have a shot on goal in Game 2 and between the six of them, only Kane has an assist.
What made matters worse for the Blackhawks top players were that Vancouver's Daniel and Henrik Sedin, after a so-so series opener, returned to form. Daniel scored twice, including the game-winner midway through the final period, and set up Jannik Hansen for the Canucks first goal. Henrik chipped in the second assist on the Hansen goal.
"We need more from our top guys," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "We need more production out of them."
Quenneville particularly was disappointed in the team's power play. It's gone 0-for-5 in the series and more importantly hasn't generated many chances to turn the momentum in either game.
On the other side, the Canucks checked in for a key man-advantage goal early in the second period when Daniel stood alone in front of Chicago goalie Corey Crawford to tip in a Christian Ehrhoff shot from the point.
Daniel, who won the league scoring race this year, a season after his brother turned the trick, remarked that even though the Sedins were held off the score sheet in the opener the twins still were pleased with their effort. But Canucks coach Alain Vigneault saw it differently.
"I think they wanted to have a game like that after the first one," Vigneault said.
Game 2 was far more exciting and closer than the series opener. The hitting was there for both sides. The Canucks followed up their 47-hit performance in the series opener with 45 more, but this time Blackhawks increased their number of body checks to 45 from 21.
There was good goaltending from Crawford and Vancouver's Roberto Luongo. There were plenty of exciting rushes by both teams and the finish was outstanding. There wasn't a whistle for the final 6:05 with the Canucks clinging to a one-goal lead.
Chicago rookie Ben Smith scored to make it one-goal game with 7:10 left. The Boston College graduate made his NHL debut in the final weekend of the regular season and he also scored Chicago's first goal of the series, snapping the team's goalless streak at 94:50 to make it 2-1 in the second period.
Smith, however, also deflected in a shot from Canucks defenceman Alexander Edler late in the second period to give Vancouver a 3-1 lead entering the final 20 minutes. Smith took full blame for the goal, stating that he should have blocked the shot with his body not his stick.
But really if the Blackhawks top players don't get going, Chicago doesn't have a chance, especially the way the Canucks have played so far in this series.
After losing Tomas Kopecky to an upper-body injury in the first game, the Blackhawks lost forward Bryan Bicknell to a cut wrist in the third period. His status for Game 3 will be re-evaluated on Saturday … Vancouver's Raffi Torres is eligible to return to action after serving his late-season suspension that carried into the first two games of the playoffs. Vigneault said that Torres will play in Game 3 if he sufficiently recovers from a bout of food poisoning that he incurred on Thursday evening.