CHICAGO — Lost in the hubbub of the controversial interference penalty taken by Vancouver Canucks forward Raffi Torres on Chicago Blackhawks defenceman Brent Seabrook is this: The Stanley Cup champions have been no match for the Canucks.
The Presidents Trophy winners snatched a 3-2 victory thanks to the strong play of goalie Roberto Luongo and some timely scoring to take a 3-0 series lead on Sunday.
But even though the Canucks have the Blackhawks down and one defeat from being out, the media-driven chatter in both dressing rooms was about Torres second-period infraction.
The Canucks hard-hitting left wing made his first appearance in the series after serving a four-game suspension for a hit on Edmonton Oilers rookie Jordan Eberle in the third last game of the regular season. Against Chicago, Torres took a roughing penalty in the first period and then slammed into Seabrook behind the Chicago net midway through the second frame.
Seabrook appeared dazed but did not miss much time and played 21 minutes and 40 seconds. Torres was called for a two-minute interference penalty, even though some observers felt that Torres could face more supplementary discipline.
Torres was not made available to speak to reporters afterwards.
Vigneault defends hit
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault felt no penalty should have been called and compared the hit to regular season blows that Vancouver defenceman Dan Hamhuis absorbed from Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf and Los Angeles forward Alex Ponikarovsky. On both occasions no penalties were called.
Canucks super sniper Daniel Sedin, who scored his team’s 2-1 go-ahead goal shortly before the contentious Torres hit, felt that Seabrook had his head down and that the hit was clean.
Seabrook remarked that he didn’t see Torres coming, but wouldn’t comment on whether the hit was dirty or should result in a suspension.
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville was incensed at the call: "Brutal. It should have been a major. They missed it. We could have scored four goals from that play."
The Torres call wasn’t the only questionable decision made by referee Greg Kimmerly and Brad Watson before the disappointed crowd of 21,743 at the United Center.
Hawks end power-play slump
The Blackhawks snapped out of their power-play slump with an early Duncan Keith goal that followed a tripping penalty on Vancouver defenceman Christian Ehrhoff, in which it appeared Chicago rookie Marcus Kruger stumbled and fell on his own.
However, Canucks captain Henrik Sedin refused to criticize the officiating.
"There were no bad calls," he said. "That’s nothing to talk about. We did a great job penalty killing."
Penalties to Torres and Kevin Bieksa put the Canucks two men down for 1:17, but that’s when Luongo was at his best. He made brilliant stops on Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp to rebound with a 30-save effort after a shaky outing in Game 2.
Before Vancouver’s Mikael Samuelsson put in a backhand midway through the third period to give his club the lead for good, Luongo made a another show-stopping save on Kane to keep the Canucks in the game. Kane led all skaters with 26:15 of ice time.
The Blackhawks went 2 for 7 on the power-play in Game 3 and they are now 2 for 12 in the series. Luongo was the best Canucks penalty killer on this night.
Costly interference call
The turning point was John Scott‘s interference penalty on Vancouver‘s Maxim Lapierre in the second period.
The 6-foot-8, 258-pound Scott was inserted up front to ruffle Luongo in the same manner Dustin Byfuglien did last spring. Instead, with his team up 1-0, playing well and enjoying its first lead of the series, Scott took a costly penalty that led to an Ehrhoff power-play goal. Fifty-four seconds later, Daniel Sedin scored his third of the series.
Sharp managed to put a power-play goal past Luongo to tie the game in the second period, but five goals in three games hasn’t been enough for the Stanley Cup champs in this series.