By Chris Kuc
March 30, 2009
Welcome to the Western Conference playoff race.
When the Hawks and Vancouver Canucks hooked up Sunday night in a key contest for postseason positioning, the Canucks skated to a 4-0 victory to pull even with the Hawks.
Vancouver's victory snapped the Hawks' three-game winning streak and set up what promises to be a wild finish in the race for fourth place and home-ice advantage in the first round. Both teams have 91 points, though the Hawks, with eight games left, have one in hand. The teams split the season series, with the Canucks winning the last two.
The potential first-round playoff matchup was dominated by the Canucks' Sedin twins and goaltender Roberto Luongo. Daniel Sedin had two goals and an assist, brother Henrik had three assists and Luongo made 26 saves for his seventh shutout of the season and 45th of his career.
Daniel Sedin's goal 3 minutes 22 seconds into the game got the Canucks started. The Vancouver offense clicked all night against Hawks goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, who started his fifth consecutive game and finished with 19 saves.
"That's a good team, obviously," Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "Anything less than our best game is not good enough against them. We definitely didn't play that type of game.
"It's not like we needed any more motivation, and I think that's what's frustrating. We have to ask ourselves why we came out so flat and figure it out and get better. We're running out of time to be making mistakes like we did out there. We all have to take responsibility."
With the Canucks leading 3-0 early in the third, the Hawks' Dustin Byfuglien bumped Luongo after a close-in chance. That set off a melee that left equipment and Kevin Bieksa's blood on the ice after a fight with the Hawks' Ben Eager.
During the scrum, Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith squared off with Alex Burrows, and Burrows yanked Keith to the ice by his hair.
The resulting 80 minutes in penalties — 98 total were called in the game — left Vancouver with a five-on-three power play, and Ryan Kesler scored to make it 4-0 and put the game away.
"That was just us sticking together," Hawks defenseman Brent Seabrook said of the melee. "We're a tight group. Whatever happens out there, we'll all stick up for each other.
"We can't accept that effort. We have to come out hard. All 20 guys have to have a better game.
"It's the nitty-gritty now. We're coming down to the final games, and we have to battle right from the drop of the puck and finish it right through for 60 minutes."
Burrows added a goal and two assists and Luongo stifled the Hawks all night, including stopping Patrick Sharp on a penalty shot in the waning minutes.
"We showed Chicago we can come in here and win a game," Luongo said. "Our defense kept them outside and didn't allow them any second chances."
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