Canucks win OT thriller

Vancouver Canucks' Ryan Kesler is checked in front of Chicago Blackhawks' net. (REUTERS/Andy Clark)

Vancouver Canucks' Ryan Kesler is checked in front of Chicago Blackhawks' net. (REUTERS/Andy Clark)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:02 AM ET

VANCOUVER - Final score: Vancouver 2, Demons 1

It took two years and seven games, but the Canucks finally showed they’re not afraid of the dark.

And it got very, very dark for a while there.

In a game that stopped traffic outside of Rogers Arena and stopped hearts in it, the Canucks overcame the defending champions, a goaltending controversy, a last-second dagger and their own tear-stained history to escape the biggest collapse in hockey history.

Barely.

Alex Burrows scored 5:22 into overtime, a bullet in the top corner, as the Canucks capped a wild six-game battle against the Chicago Blackhawks with an even wilder Game 7.

“We believed,” said jubilant winger Ryan Kesler. “We knew those guys didn’t respect us and didn’t think we could win. We wanted to come out and show them and we did.”

And in doing so, showed a side of themselves nobody had seen before.

After giving up a 3-0 series lead, and then giving up the tying goal - SHORTHANDED! - to Jonathan Toews with 1:56 left in regulation, the Canucks were teetering on the brink of a catastrophic end.

But this time they didn’t give in.

“We all tried to calm down,” said Kevin Bieksa. “We were ahead all game and playing well. We had a good feeling in the dressing room going into overtime and it worked out.

“To lose three in a row, everybody betting against us, giving up a late one and getting big kill in overtime, that’s resilient as it gets.”

They celebrated rather vigorously for a No.1 seed that just dispatched No. 8, an outcome that was supposed to be a foregone conclusion. But this series was anything but a formality, and anything but easy.

They didn’t just beat Chicago, the ghosts have been eliminated, too.

At least the ones with headdresses on their chests.

“It’s so awesome,” said struggling and embattled netminder Roberto Luongo, who stopped 31 of 32 shots in the win. “When you see a goal like that in overtime, you can’t beat that stuff. Unbelievable.

“They didn’t quit, they weren’t going to let us get away easy, but we found a way to win.”

Burrows also opened the scoring for Vancouver, 2:43 after the opening faceoff, and against the deafening backdrop of a crowd that wasn’t going to take no for an answer, delivered a stirring performance worthy of a Cup contender.

There were a half dozen times before the last-minute shocker when it looked like the demons were going to win, but they didn’t.

The outshot Chicago 15-6 in the second and it was still 1-0 after 40 minutes the league still held. Burrows had a penalty shot early in the third and couldn’t extend the lead.

A one-goal Vancouver lead in the third period with their lives on the line? We’ve seen this movie before.

Not with an ending like this, though.

“It’s tough to lose,” said Chicago goalie Corey Crawford, who was amazing for the Hawks, stopping 36 of 38 shots. “It was a good series, I don’t think anybody would have thought we’d push it to a Game 7. It’s tough to swallow right now.”

The series had everything, from the 3-0 comeback to a controversial Raffi Torres hit that sparked national debate, to a goaltending controversy that sparked even more national debate to Dave Bolland posting a four-point night in his first game back after six weeks out with a concussion to Canucks GM Mike Gillis suggesting that the referees like Chicago better.

The two teams served up a fitting finale.

“That’s a great team,” Alain Vigneault said of the Hawks. “The Stanley Cup champions pushed us to the limit, but we found a way to win.”

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@Sunmedia.ca

TWITTER.com/TYCHKOWSKI


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