VANCOUVER, British Columbia — It’s just not the same. Roberto Luongo and Dave Bolland are in Florida. Ryan Kesler’s in Anaheim; Alexandre Burrows a scratch. Even the boos for Duncan Keith are half-hearted, mere echoes of what was once the most ferocious rivalry in the NHL.
It wasn’t even a sellout, a couple hundred seats left empty for the Blackhawks’ 4-1 loss to the Canucks — their only visit to Vancouver this season. The crowd enjoyed it, though, as Jannik Hansen had a hat trick for the Canucks, who snapped the Hawks’ three-game win streak.
A few short years ago, the idea of the Hawks coming out flat in a Canucks game was unthinkable. But after arriving in Vancouver at around 1:30 a.m. for their third road game in four nights, that’s exactly what happened, and the Canucks pulled away with three third-period goals to win it.
“Yeah, we didn’t have much going tonight,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “They were definitely the harder-working team. They had way more pace and energy, and puck support. Lucky we were in the game going into the third.”
Instead of a hotly contested, hate-fueled blood feud, the Hawks and Canucks simply played an entertaining, fast-paced hockey game, with pretty much no extracurriculars. The only time the temperature rose even a bit was when Luca Sbisa poked the puck away from Patrick Kane, then plastered him face-first into the glass — a rare big hit on the elusive Kane. Kris Versteeg immediately pounced on Sbisa, went off for roughing and that was that.
“No, it’s not the same rivalry,” Versteeg said. “What was going on in 2009 and 2010, that was pretty much war on ice. That was pretty crazy.”
Hansen scored the first of his three goals from the low slot just as Versteeg’s penalty was expiring to give the Canucks a 1-0 lead. Then Versteeg answered midway through the second period with a power-play goal of his own, deflecting a Duncan Keith shot past Ryan Miller, who had lost his last four meetings against the Hawks — Games 3 through 6 of the first round of the playoffs last spring, when he was with the St. Louis Blues.
Corey Crawford, pressed into action for the second time in less than 24 hours as Antti Raanta continued to battle an illness, made 26 saves. His best one came on a penalty kill later in the second period, when a tic-tac-toe passing play gave Henrik Sedin a golden opportunity in the corner of the goalmouth. Crawford got over just in time and caught the puck with his left skate to preserve the tie.
But the Canucks went back in front at 6:24 of the third period, when rookie Adam Clendening lost Hansen, allowing him to bat in a Derek Dorsett pass from the corner for a 2-1 lead. Radim Vrbata scored with 2:24 to go, and Hansen completed the hat trick with an empty-netter in the final minute.
The Hawks had won three straight and five of their last six. They now head to Colorado for the fourth game of the six-game circus trip. A couple of days off in Denver come at just the right time.
“It’s a 1-1 game going into the third, you’ve got to be happy with the position you’re in,” Kane said. “Things unraveled pretty quickly there. Back-to-back games, they were waiting for us. They were ready. They had a lot of motivation for this one, but not to make excuses — we were in the game. We just didn’t find a way to win.”