Power play sparks Canucks to 3-0 series lead over Blues
The St. Louis Blues had their boisterous sold-out crowd on their side. The Vancouver Canucks possessed a suddenly hot power play.
In the end, the Canucks won out.
Vancouver scored all three of its goals with the man advantage to hold off the Blues 3-2 on Sunday night in Stanley Cup playoff action at the Scottrade Center.
Winger Steve Bernier scored the go-head goal early in the third period, giving Vancouver a commanding 3-0 series lead in the Western Conference quarter-final matchup.
Goaltender Robert Luongo extended his stellar playoff play, making 24 saves.
"[The power play] was a huge difference," said Luongo. "We got some big goals and we killed some big ones off."
Game 4 Tuesday night
The Canucks can sweep the best-of-seven series with a victory in Game 4 on Tuesday night (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 8 p.m. ET) in St. Louis.
"It's 3-0 and I think we still have to get to four," said Luongo. "So we've got a big one left to win and by no means are we going to think it's over.
"Those guys are not going to quit and we've got to make sure we bear down."
Defenceman Mattias Ohlund and winger Daniel Sedin provided the other Vancouver goals.
"Our guys have been taking a lot of cheap shots so far during this series," said Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault. "To respond with three goals on the power play is pretty satisfying."
David Backes and Andy McDonald responded for the Blues, while goaltender Chris Mason made 23 stops.
While the Canucks thrived on the power play, St. Louis floundered.
The Blues — 1-for-17 in the series — failed to score with six man-advantage chances Sunday, including a pair of five-on-three opportunities.
Not threatening enough
"We look tight and nervous on the power play," said St. Louis coach Andy Murray. "We've had over five minutes of 5-on-3 in this series and really have not been the threat that we want to be.
"We probably had four or five good chances on the 5-on-3, but that's not good enough against this goaltender."
The game had a predictable beginning. Following a five-player scrum at the end of Friday's game, the teams continued the rough play in the opening minutes Sunday.
Referee Brad Meier even suffered a cut when he was hit in the face by a stick.
The early place helped the Blues take their first lead in the series just 3:11 into the opening period.
After some hard work by Andy McDonald, linemate Brad Boyes picked up the loose puck behind the Vancouver net and slid a pass to Backes, who beat Luongo under his right arm.
It was only the third goal Luongo had surrendered in his last six games.
"To get that lead, to keep the crowd energized, was huge," said Backes. "A few other chances that we don't throw in the back of the net, and it ends up biting us in the butt."
The period featured several pileups around the Vancouver net, with Blues players attempting to get Luongo off his game.
St. Louis dominated the first frame, outshooting the Canucks 12-5 with only one goal to show for it.
The inept Blues power play hurt the team early. The Blues had glorious opportunities to increase their advantage but failed to register a goal on three chances.
The Canucks then grabbed the momentum in the second period, leading to a power-goal at 7:57.
Ohlund one-timed an Alexander Edler point pass between the pads of Mason to tie the game 1-1. The goal was only Vancouver's second power-play marker in 11 chances against the Blues to that point.
But the unit remained red-hot for the Canucks, who took a 2-1 lead on a five-on-three advantage 2:21 later.
With Vancouver controlling the play, Sedin alertly poked the puck behind Mason just as the Blues netminder was about to cover it.
The Blues replied with less than four minutes remaining in the second. Denied for the better part of eight periods, McDonald took a slick feed from David Perron and buried a shot over Luongo.
A costly roughing penalty to Blues winger Brandon Crombeen at the end of the second period allowed Vancouver to score its third power-play goal of the game.
Henrik Sedin battled a pass in front of the net to Steve Bernier, whose quick hands 1:41 into the third gave the Canucks a 3-2 edge.
"I just had to put it in," Bernier said. "A great feeling. It was nice execution by everybody."
Crombeen was called after charging into a scrum and took responsibility for putting his team at a disadvantage.
"It's my own stupidity that put us down and ended up costing us the game," he said. "I didn't control my emotions enough."
St. Louis had another five-on-three chance later in the period but fell short once again.
Seconds after the power player, Mason made a key save off Ryan Kesler to keep the Blues within striking distance. However, the Blues couldn't get the equalizer with the extra attacker in the dying seconds.
Sundin sits it out
Vancouver centre Mats Sundin missed Sunday's contest with a lower-body injury.
As all NHL teams do throughout the season, the Canucks wouldn't reveal the extent of the injury, but Sundin appeared to tweak either his knee or groin while falling after battling for the puck in the third period of Game 2.
The veteran had scored the game-winning goal — his first playoff marker in five years — to give Vancouver a 2-0 series lead. While he didn't practise Saturday, Sundin did take part in Sunday's morning skate.
His availability for Game 4 is unknown.
St. Louis winger Paul Kariya participated in the team's morning skate but didn't return to the lineup.
Kariya missed 73 games this past season with two hip surgeries since November, making a post-season comeback unlikely. However, Blues coach Andy Murray has been telling people privately he's just waiting for Kariya's go-ahead.
With files from The Associated Press