VANCOUVER – Obviously Nikolai Khabibulin couldn't get a building permit to construct a Bulin Wall with all the Olympic construction going on here.
Hasn't been able to get one for 11 years.
Much was made of the Chicago Blackhawks goaltender's history of domination, winning 26 of the last 33 over the Calgary Flames in the first round. Now much is going to be made about his horrid history against the Vancouver Canucks.
Khabibulin is now 0-10-1 against Vancouver since 1998 after Sami Salo rescued the Canucks who blew a 3-0 lead in the third period to score with 1:13 remaining to give, with the empty net goal which followed, Vancouver a 5-3 win in Game 1 of the Western Conference semi-final here last night.
“I had a lot of gas left in the tank, so I decided to follow up the play,” said Salo of making it a four-on-one to put himself in position to win the game.
“We won but we learned we can't sit back against these guys. We got the win but we also got a wake-up call. If you let them carry the play like we did in the third period, they're going to do that and make you pay for it.”
Roberto Luongo had his second shutout of the playoffs going through two periods and this is a guy who didn't give up a goal in the third against St. Louis only to watch the three go in and the game almost go up in the smoke created by the flash and dash of Patrick Kane and company.
“Those guys are skilled,” said Luongo. “No matter what our lead, we better go after them.”
In the other dressing room Kane, who scored two of the three goals, was visibly dejected. “Obviously it hurts right now. But we can build off that one a bit now.
“Our first 40 minutes of the game wasn't great but we made some changes.
"When you score three goals in the third period and come back from three goals down, you can definitely build on it.
"It was just to end up losing it by giving up a four-on-one ... I guess you have to learn the hard way.”
Rust showed more than rest early as the Canucks returned to action in the Stanley Cup playoffs nine days after sweeping the St. Louis Blues.
But by the end of the first period, thanks mostly to a Blackhawk parade to the penalty box, the Canucks went to the dressing room with a 1-0 lead.
With the notable exception of Luongo, who withstood the barrage as the Blackhawks were outshot 8-2 in the first third of the period, the Canucks weren't the same team the fans saw here 13 days earlier when they won Game 2 against the Blues.
“I was very happy the way Roberto came out in the first 10 minutes,” said Vigneault of his goalie showing no rust at all.
On one play in the middle of the period Ryan Kesler had the puck placed on his stick in the deep slot and stick handled it like a hand grenade and didn't even get off a shot.
When Andrew Ladd took a four minute penalty for highsticking Kyle Wellwood, the Canucks didn't even manage to get a shot on goal.
Wellwood would have his face cut again by a high stick to provide another four-minute penalty later in the game resulting in coach Alain Vigneault saying he's never seen the same face drawing two double minors: “At least he looks like a hockey player now,” he laughed.
Moments after Ladd stepped back on the ice from the first period double minor, Duncan Keith took a tripping penalty and this time the Canucks scored on the power play when Mats Sundin sent a cross-crease pass to Pavol Demitra to beat Khabibulin.
By the second period, things were clicking for the Canucks. The Sedin twins, who looked like they'd never met each other before early in the first period, combined with Daniel sending a pass from behind the goal line to Henrik out front at 5:13 to make it 2-0.
Ten minutes later Kesler had found his game and fired a feed from Wellwood from behind the net past Khabibulin to make it three-zip.
Just as the question was being asked if the Hawks forgot to pack their playoff game when they chartered out of Calgary to head here or if they were the same team which lost their last two games of the regular season to Vancouver by scores of 7-3 and 4-0, they came to life.
And when they came to life, wow did they come to life.
Patrick Kane scored at 1:01 and added his fourth of the playoffs at 10:11 on the power play to make it a hockey game and Dave Bolland scored with 5:29 remaining in the period to tie it up in a suddenly silent G.M. Place.
But with 1:13 left, Sami Salo stepped up and put a rebound off the stick of Steve Bernie behind the down-and-out Khabibulin to win it.
Ryan Johnson scored the empty netter to keep the Canucks undefeated in Stanley Cup play so far in the game in which the Hawks outshot the Canucks 31-27.