Crash course

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 3:55 PM ET

ANAHEIM – Was this series over before it started?

Was it over when the line-ups were announced?

When No. 3 Kevin Bieksa and No. 6 Sami Salo were scratched?

When Roberto Luongo led Rory Fitzpatrick, Alexander Edler, Brent Sopel and the rest of the Vancouver Canucks to the ice to open the Western Conference semi-final against the Anaheim Ducks here last night?

The answer: 5-1.

Led by his first career playoff hat trick, Andy McDonald led the Ducks to the route of the Canucks in Game 1.

With Salo (back) and Biekjsa (foot) unable to go, the Canucks were in even more trouble to start this series than they were by playing the equivalent of eight and a half games in the first round and starting the second round less than 48 hours later.

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault did not confess the downgraded defence and fatigue played any part.

“Penalty trouble and bad decision on the ice. We have to take their speed away in the neutral zone and not allow them to dominate us on the wall.”

Asked if Salo and Biekjsa would be back soon, Vigneault said “I’m not sure. It provides an opportunity for players to play a bigger role. They have to step up and get the job done.”

Translation: Not coming back soon.

“Fatigue was not an issue. There were a lot of areas we have to work on.” With the two defenders missing and the Sedin twins gone back to being missing in action, the only team Luongo faced during the regular season that he didn’t beat was beat before the end of the first period.

Despite the Canucks’ Jeff Cowan managing to score first, any expectation of Vancouver even being in this one were removed early.

The Canucks had the lead for two minutes and 17 seconds. Vancouver managed to win their series with the Dallas Stars despite only managing to be in the lead for 45:55 out of 512:15, but...

“Because of what happened in that span, it’s tough to say,” said Luongo of the one-sided score being a one-off or not.

“That first line of theirs is fast. We talked about it before the game. Nothing surprised us. Maybe we just learned the lesson the hard way tonight.

“There were a lot of situations where guys were there for the rebound tonight. We have to do a better job in that area. We can play against these guys if we do our job. We have to realize we have to do a lot of things better if we want to beat these guys.”

The Ducks, who polished off the Minnesota Wild in five games, had the Canucks down 3-1 by the end of the first period.

The Canucks, who strangely stood on the blueline for the national anthem one man short, had too many men on the ice to provide a power play to even it up.

McDonald converted a Chris Pronger rebound between the legs of Luongo with Sopel standing around watching, Teemu Selanne went around Sopel like a hoop around a barrel to make it 2-0 and Selanne feed McDonald for his second goal and third point of the period to tie the team record previous owned alone by Selanne for three points in a period.

If there was much question of how this one was going to end up after 20 minutes, and there wasn’t, Calgary native Ryan Getzlaf ended it at 9:05 of the third on a play which began with Luongo giving the puck away.

Luongo was pulled in favor of Dany Sabourin at that point, but hardly because of his error. He’d played 518:05 consecutive minutes of playoff action to that point.

But Vigneault said that wasn’t it.

“The score was 4-1. I didn’t want to take a risk to injure him.”

McDonald completed the hat trick with Trevor Linden in the penalty box with 51.8 remaining to play.

tjones@edmsun.com


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