The Vancouver Canucks figured they could beat the St. Louis Blues if they took a lead into the third period and let Roberto Luongo hold firm the rest of the way. They figured right.
Daniel Sedin had one goal and one assist and Luongo stopped 25 shots as the Canucks beat the Blues 2-1 in Game 1 of their Western Conference quarter-final at General Motors Place on Wednesday night.
"That is the way we need to play every game," Luongo said. "It is not like we're trying to win every game 2-1 or 1-0 because we weren't sitting in a shell or anything, but the games are going to be tight and those are the games you have to win to have success in the playoffs."
Vancouver knew it was a recipe for success because it went 30-0 when leading after two periods in regular-season play.
As it was, the Canucks controlled the tempo and outshot the Blues 15-6 in the third period.
"They defended the lead pretty good by putting pressure on us," Blues netminder Chris Mason said. "They have a lot of big forwards and they do a good job of going to the net and making it tough.
"That is a big thing in playoff hockey. I think we have to take a page out of their book and try and do that a little more, too, to Louie."
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series goes Friday at Vancouver (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 10 p.m. ET).
Steve Bernier also scored for the third-ranked Canucks, winners of the Northwest Division.
Brad Boyes had the lone goal for the sixth-seeded Blues, competing in the playoffs for the first time in five years.
Mason faced 31 shots in his 34th consecutive start.
"This game was about encouragement rather than discouragement," Blues head coach Andy Murray said. "The first 40 minutes we had multiple opportunities and our power play couldn't take advantage, but you get power plays because you forecheck and play hard."
St. Louis was the league's hottest team in the second half, rising from 15th place to sixth overall with a 25-9-7 record over that span.
But Vancouver's defence corps kept Luongo's crease tidy from the outset, repeatedly clearing pucks and skaters and letting him focus on controlling rebounds, plus killed off six of seven power plays.
"Our power play has been very good for us all year, so we're counting on it," Blues forward Andy McDonald said.
"I don't think we can be in the box six, seven times in the game," Luongo acknowledged. "We all know that.
"They're a good special teams team and we talked about that. I expect us to be a little less penalized next game."
'A dangerous offensive team'
Daniel Sedin staked the Canucks to the 1-0 lead midway through the opening period, scoring from the high slot off a slick pass from Pavol Demitra at the side boards.
Alex Burrows had a glorious chance early in the second period as he broke in alone, but Blues defenceman Carlo Colaiacovo knocked the puck off his stick with a diving poke-check.
Moments later, Vancouver went ahead 2-0 on Bernier's power-play tally.
With Keith Tkachuk parked in the penalty box, the Canucks applied relentless pressure and were rewarded when Daniel Sedin passed the puck from behind the net all the way to the point, where Sami Salo unleashed a one-timer that Bernier tipped past a screened Mason at the 5:11 mark.
Henrik Sedin was penalized for hooking late in the period and St. Louis struck back on the ensuing power play, with Luongo kicking Alex Steen's shot directly to Boyes, who buried the rebound past the lunging netminder at 18:16.
Boyes led the Blues in goals (33) and power-play goals (16) during the regular season.
"That is a dangerous offensive team and we took too many penalties tonight and it is going to hurt us if we keep doing it that," Daniel Sedin said.
Vancouver prevailed in two previous series with St. Louis, winning both in seven games.