The Vancouver Canucks scored early and often en route to a 5-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks in game one of their Western Conference Semi-Finals. The much touted rivalry did not develop a great deal of physical play or scrums after the whistles. The play was rather even for most of the match, although the Canucks capitalized on their chances and had a strong outing from Roberto Luongo, while the Blackhawks failed to capitalize on their early power plays, and goaltender Antti Niemi gave up some juicy rebounds and received little help in the defensive zone en route to a Canucks 1-0 series lead.
Christian Ehrhoff opened the scoring and Mason Raymond potted a goal with 11 seconds remaining the first period to stake the Canucks to a 2-0 lead after one. Shortly into the second period, Daniel Sedin potted a goal on his third attempt to push the Canucks ahead by three.
Later in the second period, Kyle Wellwood jammed a loose puck behind Antti Niemi to make it 4-0, and Rick Rypien set up Michael Grabner on a two on one and Grabner made no mistake to put the Canucks up 5-0 by the end of two periods.
Patrick Kane scored a goal in the third period on a 5-on-3 for the Blackhawks, but the offered little else to seriously threaten the Canucks lead.
For Roberto Luongo, it was a step in the right direction toward redeeming the game 6 against the Blackhawks last year that he has been unable to live down from opposing fans and the media.
The Blackhawks came out strong in the first period but faltered in two powerplays early. The game went back and forth without a great deal of sustained pressure - indicative of two evenly matched teams. As stated earlier, the difference appeared to be in net as Roberto Luongo out-performed his counterpart Antti Niemi and Chicago coach Joel Quenneville may have a decision his hands about who to start for Game two. Backup Cristobal Huet has not played an entire game for quite some time and has struggled since being ill earlier this year.
That being said, the Canucks have guaranteed at least a split from the two opening game at the Madhouse on Madison and will return home looking to take either the lead or a stranglehold on the series.
Game 2 goes Monday night in Chicago.