Vancouver at St. Louis, Western Conference quarterfinal, Game Three, 7:00 p.m. EST
SAN JOSE, California (AP) -- There's great anticipation over the
St. Louis Blues' first home playoff game in five years. Now, all
they've got to do is slip a few pucks past Roberto Luongo.
The Vancouver Canucks' goalie was the unquestioned star the
first two games of the Western Conference quarterfinal series,
allowing only one goal while stopping 55 shots. He's coming off
his first career playoff shutout in a 3-0 victory Friday night
that gave the West's third seed a 2-0 series lead heading into
Game 3 Sunday night.
"I feel great, I'm seeing the puck well and guys are doing a
great job in front of me so I can see the puck," Luongo said.
"And sometimes when you don't see it, it hits you.
"It's nice to know sometimes the puck bounces your way like
St. Louis was the NHL's hottest team the second half and went
9-1-1 to finish the regular season. So far, the Canucks and
Luongo have made the Blues' first playoff berth since 2003-04 a
Luongo finished the regular season with consecutive shutouts
that helped the Canucks win the Northwest Division. He sees no
reason why the roll can't continue on the road.
"That's the type of stuff that I enjoy, going into buildings
where it's not the greatest atmosphere for the visiting team,"
he said before the series began. "That's the best part of
"I almost enjoy that more than playing home games."
The Blues are hoping increased traffic around the net will help
them solve the Luongo puzzle. That, plus improved production
from a power play that's gone 1-for-11. A little luck would also
Coach Andy Murray pointed out the Blues hit the goal post or
crossbar four times in Game 2. Three of those were off the stick
of Andy McDonald.
"Obviously, when you don't score that means he sees too many
pucks," Murray said. "There's not many pucks he won't stop if he
sees them, so we need to be better."
Easy to say.
"Our 'D' and our forwards are doing a good job of boxing out and
letting Louie see the pucks," Canucks forward Ryan Kesler said.
"Our goal is to keep them away from Louie and let Louie see and
stand his ground and make the stops."
And, perhaps, get into their heads.
"When a goalie is hot against you and he makes a couple of big
saves, you start hanging your head a little bit and give a
couple of sighs," Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa said. "Kind of
like 'Are we ever going to beat this guy?'"
The Blues have rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win a seven-game
series only once in franchise history. Then again, they were in
a must-win situation much of the season, climbing back from dead
last in the conference in mid-February and qualifying for the
playoffs with one game to go in the regular season.
They've lost two straight for the first time since Jan. 11 and
"Have you been following us since Christmas?" Murray said. "We
had a fair amount of pressure in every one of those games
because if we lost one of those we wouldn't be sitting here
right now playing in the playoffs, so nobody has to tell us
Murray is confident the Blues have more to give, and will be
inspired by a vociferous fan following they won back after three
straight also-ran seasons.
"They've got a great crowd, a rowdy crowd, and they play very
well in their own arena," said Canucks center Ryan Johnson, a
former Blue. "We're going to have to keep our energy high, short
shifts, and start things off good here and let our momentum
Physical play picked up in Game 2 and is likely to make the trip
across two time zones for Game 3.
"They're trying to take something from us that we really want
and we're trying to take something from us that we really want,"
Blues forward David Backes said. "So it's going to be that way
until we're shaking hands at the end and hopefully we have
smiles on our face."
The Blues didn't practice on Saturday, flying back to St. Louis
the morning after the game. The Canucks practiced in Vancouver
before making the trip.