Darren Eliot
Friday May 7th, 2010

This was the series that the Vancouver Canucks wanted. All season long, they craved a shot at redemption versus the Chicago Blackhawks -- the team that ousted them in the Western Conference Semi-Finals a year ago. Be careful what you wish for.

In Game 3 on Wednesday night, the Canucks strayed from their promise to not lose focus. Well, if they didn't lose focus, they certainly acted out of frustration in losing 5-2 on home ice and falling behind, two games to one.

Blackhawks goaltender Antti Niemi was outstanding in stopping all 16 shots against him in the crucial first period. At the other end of the ice, Roberto Luongo had a tough night controlling his rebounds. The Blackhawks pounced repeatedly, crashing the crease and getting the desired results. Coach Joel Quenneville put Dustin Byfuglien on the Blackhawks' top line and he couldn't have asked for more, as the 6-4, 257-pound winger netted a hat trick by ramming and jamming while anchored at the top of Luongo's crease.

Instead of employing the same tactics in front of Niemi, the Canucks engaged in verbal jousting and after-the-whistle malingering -- more concerned with face washes than forechecking. Daniel Sedin was most distracted, probably the result of his own frustration in failing to cash several quality looks in that all-important first period. He spent the rest of the night engaged with David Bolland, going to the penalty box on a crucial power play opportunity.

Both Daniel and Henrik Sedin failed to hit the score sheet, prompting coach Alain Vigneault to call for more from his top players. He employed the same tactic in the first round when his team fell behind 2-1 in the series against the Kings, and Luongo and the twins responded as the Canucks reeled off three straight wins. They need the same response and result tonight in Vancouver. Keeping their focus is a smart way to start.

Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Flyers are striving to stave off a sweep on home ice against the Boston Bruins. Already battered by injuries, the Bruins lost centerman David Krejci in Game 3 to a wrist injury and he'll be gone for the rest of the postseason. That's a break for the desperate Flyers, who have gamely soldiered on without top shooters Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne, although Gagne skated yesterday and may try to play tonight. That would be good news for a team badly in need of a boost. The Flyers would hope to get a lift along the lines of what Marc Savard's return after a two-month absence did for the Bruins when he heroically scored the game-winner in overtime of the series opener.

So far, the Bruins' have prevailed due to several unlikely occurrences. First, Miroslav Satan -- a midseason reclamation signing -- has goals in four-straight games and suddenly looks like the guy who routinely scored 29-plus per season while with the Buffalo Sabres from 1997to 2004. Mark Recchi, all of 42 years old, has similarly tapped into the way-back machine, finding the back of the net four times during the playoffs.

The Bruins have gotten just enough offense to support the sterling goaltending of rookie Tuuka Rask. He has continued his consistent excellence while his counterpart, Brian Boucher, has cooled at precisely the wrong time after a rousing effort in the Flyers' first round ouster of the Devils in five games. Boucher, who has a reputation for occasional streaks of brilliance, has to conjure up another stirring effort tonight in front of the Philly faithful. He can't be average because the Bruins and Rask are defending ferociously and giving up precious little on the scoreboard. Absent Gagne's offense, Boucher's performance becomes even more crucial.

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