PLAYOFF SERIES: Western Conference semifinal; Canucks lead 2-1.
The Canucks will rely on their newfound defensive approach again as they try to take a three-games-to-one lead in their West semifinal series at the Xcel Energy Center.
Vancouver coach Marc Crawford said he didn’t intend to switch to a more defensive-oriented style for Game 3, but the Canucks played like it in a 3-2 victory that gave them a 2-1 series lead.
The Canucks allowed only 18 shots on goal, effectively clogged the passing lanes and forced the usually disciplined Wild into several turnovers. Minnesota registered 48 shots on goal in the first two games of the series.
Crawford was asked if the Canucks were happy with the way they won—playing Minnesota’s type of game instead of the more offensive-minded style Vancouver usually exhibits.
“We’re encouraged we won,” Crawford said. “We look no further than that.”
Canucks center Brendan Morrison, however, knows that his team can’t afford to play its regular attacking style against Minnesota.
“You can’t open it up against these guys,” Morrison said. “They’re such a good team at counter-attacking that you have to play it simple.”
While Minnesota had 18 shots on goal, Vancouver was held to only 13, but the game’s slower place favored the Canucks’ bigger lineup.
And switching to a more defensive style was easier because Vancouver’s power play scored three times, including Daniel Sedin’s go-ahead goal with 7:27 left in the third period.
Morrison and Ed Jovanovski also scored for the Canucks, winners of five of six playoff games since dropping Games 3 and 4 of their first-round series at St. Louis.
With bad blood developing between these teams, a total of 40 penalty minutes were called in Game 3, still considerably less than the 74 in Game 2. If the referees continue to call games tight, special teams could decide this series.
“Obviously they didn’t want the game to get out of hand,” Wild defenseman Nick Schultz said. “So they called anything remotely close to a penalty. That may have taken some of the flow away.”
The Canucks regained home-ice advantage with Tuesday’s victory, but playing at home hasn’t been much of an advantage for either club in these playoffs.
Minnesota has lost three of its four home playoff games while getting outscored 11-6. In six road contests, the Wild are 4-2 and have outscored opponents 18-15.
Vancouver has been a better home team, winning four of six, with one of those losses coming to the Wild in Game 2.
“Vancouver, they struggled at home this year and they played good on the road,” Minnesota’s Jim Dowd said. “Us, I don’t know what it is. Maybe you get up more for road games, who knows? It’s one of those things that’s unexplainable.”
Fernandez has won three of four decisions in the playoffs and has a much better goals-against average than Roloson, who is 2-4 with a 2.92 GAA.
The series moves back to Vancouver for Game 5 on Monday.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Canucks - Markus Naslund and Jovanovski, 5 goals; Naslund, 6 assists and 11 points; Todd Bertuzzi, 54 PIM. Wild - Gaborik, 6 goals and 11 points; Sergei Zholtok, 7 assists, Matt Johnson, 17 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Canucks - Power play: 18.3 percent (11 for 60). Penalty killing: 78.3 percent (47 for 60). Wild - Power play: 24.4 percent (10 for 41). Penalty killing: 79.5 percent (31 for 39).
GOALTENDERS: Canucks - Dan Cloutier (6-4, 2.80 GAA); Alex Auld (no appearances). Wild - Roloson (2-4, 2.92); Fernandez (3-1, 2.19).
REGULAR SEASON SERIES: 2-2-1. Vancouver won the first two meetings, and Minnesota rebounded to win the next two before the teams skated to a 2-2 tie in the last matchup Jan. 28. Gaborik had five goals and four assists for the Wild, while Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi each had five points to lead the Canucks.