VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP)—Dan Cloutier couldn’t have wished for a better birthday present Tuesday night.
“Obviously I wasn’t thinking too much about my birthday today,” Cloutier said with a smile. “The phones were unhooked and cell phones were off so I could just focus on the game and not worry about any distractions.
“Now is the perfect time to actually celebrate.”
He’ll have a lot of help from a city that waited eight years for the Canucks to win a playoff series. After falling behind three games to one, few around Vancouver expected to be celebrating anything.
But the Canucks built some momentum with a Game 5 win and never looked back.
“We started seeing it in their eyes here in Game 5,” said Canucks captain Markus Naslund, who scored for the fourth straight game. “It felt like they were wearing down and started getting tired and we just got stronger.”
“It feels great, especially the way we did it, Cloutier said. “Down 3-1 to battle back, we stick with it and here we are moving on to the second round— and what a great feeling it is.”
St. Louis captain Al MacInnis was a surprise starter after being knocked out of the series in Game 2 with a shoulder injury. But his addition wasn’t enough as the Blues failed to advance past the opening round for the first time in three years.
“I m not a doctor, but obviously I thought I was good enough to play,” MacInnis said. “I felt I was good enough to contribute.”
After two straight losses, the Blues appeared to regain some momentum when Martin Rucinsky scored one minute into the game. But the Canucks turned up their physical play, re-established their forecheck and took over in the second period for the third straight game.
“In Game 5 here we came out really hard and tried to play physical against their D, and we just kept pounding them and pounding them,” said Todd Bertuzzi, who started the hit parade with a crushing blow on Bryce Salvador behind the Blues’ net. “We were the more desperate team out there and it showed tonight.”
Sedin tied it midway through the first period. Morrison and Naslund made it 3-1 during a second period in which the Canucks outshot the Blues 13-10. Vancouver outscored St. Louis 7-1 in the second period of the last three games.
“When you’re up three games to one, you expect to win one of them,” said Blues goalie Chris Osgood. “It’s stunning for us to take right now. It was right there for us and it’s difficult to take.”
Morrison gave the Canucks the lead 7:20 into the second period by charging hard to the net and banging in a rebound after Linden shot from the high slot.
Naslund doubled the lead with his fourth goal in as many games, beating Osgood cleanly with a power-play wrist shot from the top of the right circle.
The Blues, who had outscored Vancouver 10-1 in the third periods of this series, started the final period on a power play. But Linden, who was held pointless through the first six games, snapped a wrist shot over a diving Chris Pronger and past Osgood’s glove.
“We looked like we learned a little bit from the two past games,” Naslund said.
Cloutier got caught going the wrong way after a great play by Doug Weight on the first goal. He recovered with a handful of great saves as the Blues outshot Vancouver 9-5 through the opening 10 minutes.
Trent Klatt did a great job keeping the puck in the St. Louis zone on Vancouver’s first goal. Daniel Sedin picked off MacInnis’ errant pass behind the Blues net and fed a blind backhand pass to twin brother Henrik alone in front. He snapped a quick wrist shot over Osgood’s right shoulder to tie the game.
Vancouver’s penalty kill, burned badly by the Blues throughout the series, stopped all four Blues power plays. The Canucks were 1-for-6 with the man advantage.
^Notes: This was the third time the Canucks advanced after falling behind three games to one. … Vancouver’s last series win came in 1995 against the Blues and was clinched with a Game 7 win in St. Louis. … The Blues had won all six previous series in which they took a 3-1 lead. … Osgood has lost two straight Game 7s in the first round, including an opening-round loss against Toronto when he was with the New York Islanders last year.