PLAYOFF SERIES: Western Conference quarterfinal; tied 3-3.
Home ice in Game 7 meant everything in last season’s playoffs. The Vancouver Canucks hope that trend continues.
The Canucks look to complete a three-game comeback and earn a place in the Western Conference semifinals when they host the St. Louis Blues in Game 7 of their first-round series.
Vancouver staved off elimination for the second straight game Sunday, as captain Markus Naslund had a goal and two assists in a 4-3 victory in Game 6.
Mattias Ohlund added a goal and an assist and Ed Jovanovski and Henrik Sedin scored second-period goals for the Canucks, who have nine goals in the last two games after totaling just four in the first four contests.
Although home ice hasn’t meant much in this series or in this postseason, having Game 7 at home has traditionally been of vital importance. All five series in the 2002 playoffs that went seven games were won by the home team. In NHL history, the home team is 67-38 in Game 7.
“Game 7 is in our building and we like the reasons it’s in our building,” Canucks coach Marc Crawford said. “We had to work hard to get back in the series and now we’re there. “We have the same opportunity as they do.”
Whoever wins Tuesday’s game will play the winner of the series between Colorado and Minnesota.
Only 16 times has a team overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a best-of-seven playoff series. Vancouver has done it twice, defeating Winnipeg in the 1992 Smythe Division semifinals and Calgary in the 1994 conference quarterfinals.
St. Louis has never lost a playoff series after being up 3-1.
Left wing Keith Tkachuk was a member of the Winnipeg team that blew a 3-1 lead to Vancouver.
“We didn’t want this to happen, having to go back to Vancouver,” Tkachuk said. “But we have a lot of veteran guys here. Guys who have played in a lot of big games. We’ll be ready to go.”
St. Louis kept Vancouver’s top line mostly in check through the first four games of the series, but Naslund, Todd Bertuzzi and Brendan Morrison have combined for four goals and eight points in the past two contests.
Naslund, particularly, has elevated his play, with three goals and two assists in the last two games.
“He’s playing with so much confidence,” Crawford said. “He’s captured the pace of the game and when skilled players capture the pace and they get the puck, they know what to do with it.”
Blues goalie Chris Osgood appeared to be in complete control of this series after a 4-1 victory in Game 4. He had allowed just four goals on 90 shots to that point, but has surrendered nine goals on 61 shots in the last two games.
Osgood admittedly showed signs of frustration in Game 6 when he was called for roughing Vancouver’s Trent Klatt with 13:21 left in the third period.
“We ran into each other so many times over the course of a game, you just get frustrated after a while,” Osgood said. “I just gave him a shot to get him away from me and that was about it.”
Despite his team’s recent struggles, Blues center Doug Weight has arguably been the best player in these playoffs. He had two goals and an assist in Game 6, giving him a league-leading 12 points in the postseason.
“We’re a confident team. We are,” Weight said. “We believe we’re the better team right now and we’ve got to go prove it.”
The last time the Canucks played a Game 7 was in the 1995 conference quarterfinals when they won 5-3 at St. Louis. The Blues have lost four of their last five Game 7s.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Blues - 99 points; 5th seed. Canucks - 104 points; 4th seed.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Blues - Weight, 5 goals, 7 assists and 12 points; Dallas Drake, 21 PIM. Canucks - Naslund, 3 goals and 6 points; four tied with 3 assists, Bertuzzi, 34 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Blues - Power play: 22.7 percent (10 for 44). Penalty killing: 85.7 percent (36 for 42). Canucks - Power play: 14.3 percent (6 for 42). Penalty killing: 77.3 percent (34 for 44).
REGULAR SEASON SERIES: Canucks, 2-1-1. The teams combined for 33 goals in four games. Vancouver went 2-0-1 in the first three meetings before the Blues posted a 6-4 victory at home March 18. Morrison had four goals and six points for the Canucks.