VANCOUVER — This is Alain Vigneault’s seventh season behind the Canucks bench and his sixth in the playoffs. His first five post-season campaigns produced some memorable games, from the good to the bad to the ugly. Here are seven that stick out....
April 11, 2007 — In his first ever playoff game behind the Canucks’ bench, Vigneault was there almost forever as the Canucks and Dallas Stars went deep into the night and then early the next morning before Henrik Sedin, from Daniel and Mattias Ohlund, scored at 18:06 of the fourth overtime period for a 5-4 Canuck win. The Canucks were outshot 76-56. Complicating matters for Vigneault was the loss of two forwards to injury during the game as Matt Cooke left in the second period and Alex Burrows in the first overtime. Also scoring for the Canucks in that game were Daniel, Ohlund, Markus Naslund and Bryan Smolinski. “I’m going to bed,” quipped Naslund in the winners’ dressing room sometime after 12:30 a.m.
April 21, 2009 — For the first and only time in franchise history, the Canucks swept an opponent in a best-of-seven series. Alex Burrows scored at 19:41 of the first overtime period as the Canucks bounced the St. Louis Blues in the minimum four games. Burrows scored twice that night in a 3-2 victory. Kyle Wellwood had the other. Roberto Luongo finished with 47 saves. “Roberto is the best, that’s all I can say,” declared Canuck defenceman Shane O’Brien. “He’s a warrior. He’s our best player, our captain, everything. He’s unbelievable.”
May 11, 2009 — After leading their second-round series 2-1 against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Canucks lost Games 4 and 5 and were facing elimination in Game 6. Down 3-1 midway through the second period, they rallied to take 4-3 and 5-4 leads in the third, only to have everything fall apart in the final seven minutes as Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Kane again ventilated Luongo for a 7-5 Blackhawk win. Luongo surrendered all seven goals on just 30 shots and was in tears following the loss. “I think I let my teammates down tonight and that’s going to take a while to get over, I think,” he said.
May 11, 2010 — Exactly a year to the day they were eliminated by the Blackhawks, the Canucks were again facing elimination by the Blackhawks. Coach Vee’s skaters won the opening game of the series 5-1 in Chicago but then dropped the next three by a combined 16-8 margin. They rebounded 4-1 in Game 5 to stay alive but were trounced 5-1 two days later to end their Cup chase for another year. Luongo faced 35 shots, stopped 30 and attempted a little gallows humour post-game that went over like the proverbial lead balloon. “I kept it under seven goals,” he said. “So improvement was made.” It was the pre-strombone1 era and nobody laughed.
April 26, 2011 – After squandering a 3-0 opening-round series lead against the now despised ’Hawks, the Canucks were facing the humiliating prospect of being the fourth team in NHL history to gag on a 3-0 series advantage. Alex Burrows scored early in Game 7 and the Canucks were still leading by the razor-thin 1-0 margin late in the third when Duncan Keith went to the penalty box for hooking. The Blackhawks had no choice but to go for the shortie and Jonathan Toews did exactly that, tying the game at 18:04. Burrows then took a holding penalty just 24 seconds into overtime and Luongo made a stupendous save on Patrick Sharp on the ensuing power play, setting the stage for the dramatic Burrows “Slay the Dragon” series-winner at 5:22. “We didn’t make it easy on ourselves,” said Burrows the hero. “I think it feels even better getting it done this way.”
May 24, 2011 — Up 3-1 on the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference final, the Canucks were looking to put away the Sharks in a tidy five games. Things appeared bleak late in the third with Vancouver down 2-1 but Ryan Kesler deflected a Henrik Sedin shot past Antti Niemi with 13.2 seconds remaining, sending the game into overtime and then double overtime before Kevin Bieksa won it on a knuckle-puck shot that almost nobody saw. “When you watch the replay, the officials didn’t know where it was, Niemi didn’t know where it was, Vancouver, San Jose, nobody knew where it was,” lamented losing coach Todd McLellan. “It came right to Bieksa. One more bounce he probably whiffs on it and we’re still playing.”
June 15, 2011 – Tied 3-3 with the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final, the Canucks were one home-ice victory from the their first ever championship. The Canucks had been dominant at home throughout the playoffs and entered the game on a six-game win streak on Rogers Arena ice. Sadly for them, they couldn’t close the deal and were soundly defeated 4-0 by the Bruins, who celebrated wildly on the playing surface while the Canucks commiserated just metres away in their dressing room. Meanwhile, on the streets, a riot was underway. “This is the toughest thing you can go through,” captain Henrik Sedin said of the loss, although he could have meant the riot as well.
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