No shootout to save them

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 3:04 PM ET

VANCOUVER -- When you play the sixth longest game in Stanley Cup history and it's your first ever playoff game, you notice stuff.

Like looking around the dressing room and seeing your teammates get giddy.

"After a couple of overtime periods guys were getting delirious," said Roberto Luongo. "There were jokes."

Trevor Linden said about midnight, when his 37th birthday had officially expired, someone cracked one.

"I won't say who was involved but somebody said one of our not-so-fast guys was beginning to look like our speedster."

With every click on the clock as the Dallas Stars series with the Vancouver Canucks opened on the West Coast here at 7 p.m. Wednesday, newspaper deadlines went by across the country, until it ended at 12:32 a.m. here - 5:02 a.m. in Newfoundland - long past closing time in every province east of Alberta - five hours and 32 minutes after it started.

PLAYOFF SHOOTOUT?

By 2:29 of the third overtime period, when it officially became the longest game in Canucks history, it was hard to find anybody in the press box who hadn't become an instant convert of Stanley Cup shootouts.

By the end of the third overtime, it seemed like a good idea to give each team a win and proceed to Dallas for Game 3.

But as it went on and on and on, and the game started moving up the chart to be the ninth-, eighth-, seventh- and sixth-longest, all of a sudden there was the sense of sitting on history and maybe having the chance to have a new Mud Bruneteau.

Then, with 1:54 to play in the fourth overtime Henrik Sedin converted a pass from brother Daniel, reversing the combination of the first goal of the game more than five hours earlier, at 4:20 of the first period to end it and give the Canucks a 5-4 win.

I asked Henrik if he ever heard of Mud Bruneteau, the Detroit Red Wing who scored at 116:30 of overtime against the Montreal Maroons in 1936 in the longest game ever.

"No," he said, looking at me strangely.

This one came, officially at 78:06 of OT.

It was the 129th shot on goal of the game.

Roberto Luongo faced 76 shots, the most in Stanley Cup history since the league started recording the stat in 1956.

"That's one to remember, that's for sure," said Bobby Lu, the goalie in his seventh NHL season who carried the Canucks to the playoffs to finally play in a playoff game in his seventh season in the league.

"It was very tiring, physically and mentally. Your legs start seizing up. I did feel a little nervous because it's my first game. But I got the first one out of the way."

First two, I suggested.

"Or first two," he said. "I got all the experience I needed in one night."

PRETENDED TO BEG OFF

Canucks captain Markus Naslund pretended to beg off interviews when it was over.

"I'm going to bed," he said.

But he was smiling.

"I think it's fun," he said. "It's great to be part of something like that when you play past midnight."

Four-on-four? Shootouts?

"No way," said Naslund. "This is the way it has to be settled.""I'm completely and utterly exhausted. I've never been so tired in my whole life. It was physically cruel."

It was an unforgettable night to open a series which was supposed to put you to sleep and turned out to be just the opposite.

When it was over the Canucks were down three men - Matt Cooke and Alex Burrows - due to injuries after having lost Brent Sopel the night before when, as coach Alain Vignault put it "he picked up a cracker and his back blew out, just spasmed out."

When it was over there was the thought that the Canucks may have won the game but lost the series.

"Obviously a game like this takes its toll," said Linden. "It seems like you've got 15 seconds of juice per shirt and then it's gone, just gone. Your effectiveness keeps getting shorter and shorter.

Vignault gave his team a "very optional" practice here yesterday, saying he believed they'd recover.

"These guys are great athletes as long as they aren't bending down to pick up crackers," he said.


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