CHICAGO - After two straight losses, Vancouver Canucks coach John Tortorella decided to shake up his team Friday, starting rookie goalie Eddie Lack in net for the first time ever against the Chicago Blackhawks over veteran Roberto Luongo.
Although Lack was shaky at the outset, allowing Chicago to score the game's first two goals, he also was the man of the hour when he needed to be the most, stopping seven of eight Blackhawks shots in the shootout as the Canucks earned a hard-fought 3-2 win at the United Center.
"I thought I let the first goal in a little bit cheap, so I wanted to get it back and keep my team in it," Lack said. "I thought we all did a huge job coming back from 2-0 and taking it to the shootout. It was a good game for sure."
Tortorella, who is in his first year at the helm of the Canucks after five years in charge of the New York Rangers, not only had confidence in his goalie but also that his team would rally.
It was the ninth time this season that the Canucks have rallied back to win after allowing the opposing team to score first, which leads the league. The Blackhawks still have a dominant 19-0-4 record when they score the first goal in a game this season.
"First period, I think we showed them a little bit too much respect," Tortorella said. "You should respect that team. It's a really good hockey club, but I think we just kind of tested the waters a little bit. I thought we started taking over the game in the second period. Didn't get frustrated with not producing on the power play. Had some chances on the power play, but didn't produce, and banged one in and found our way."
Center Ryan Kessler scored the deciding tally to help the Canucks break a two-game losing streak while also snapping Chicago's two-game winning streak.
Center Mike Santorelli scored the first goal of the shootout for the Canucks (21-11-6), followed by misses by left winger Daniel Sedin, center Henrik Sedin, right winger Zack Kassian, defenseman Yannick Weber, left winger David Booth and center Zac Dalpe before Kesler's game-winner.
Chicago (25-7-6) managed just one goal in the shootout, coming from forward Patrick Sharp. Missing for the Blackhawks were right winger Patrick Kane, center Jonathan Toews, right winger Marian Hossa, left winger Brandon Saad, right winger Ben Smith, right winger Kris Versteeg and center Michal Handzus.
The win tied the season series between the two teams at 1, with one more game remaining later this season.
"There's no time or space and I think we didn't shoot enough and tried to get a little bit more disruptive," said Chicago coach Joel Quenneville, whose team outshot the Canucks 26-24.
Luongo has a 15-10-3 all-time record against the Blackhawks, but after tough defeats in the previous two games, Tortorella thought he'd throw a curve ball at the defending Stanley Cup champions -- and it worked.
"Having a goalie we didn't see before didn't help us," Quenneville said.
Despite the shootout going eight deep on each side, Quenneville was surprisingly not as angry as some might have thought.
"It's a confidence thing, it's a feel thing," Quenneville said. "Eventually, I think things like that can go in your favor, and right now it's been just okay."
Chicago grabbed the lead first at 7:49 of the first period on Versteeg's tip-in goal (seventh of season).
The Blackhawks made it 2-0 at 4:57 of the second period on Kane's slap shot from inside the left circle for his team-leading 21st goal of the season.
"(It's) definitely disappointing when you're up 2-0 to give up a lead and then lose the game," Kane said.
After Chicago goalie Antti Raanta stopped the Canucks' first 12 shots, he wasn't as lucky on the 13th attempt as Kassian nailed his seventh goal of the season on a 25-foot slap shot.
Raanta got bottled up on one side of his net at 10:48 of the third period and Vancouver took advantage of his being out of position. Defenseman Kevin Bieksa flicked the puck through the crease to Daniel Sedin, who easily slid it past Raanta for his 12th goal of the season, tying the game at 2.
With the loss, Chicago lost its league lead in wins (Pittsburgh now has 26), but still leads the NHL in points (56).