The Vancouver Canucks have long been known as chokers, a team of great talent that goes to pieces when it counts.
In this series, they’ve added “dirty” to their resume.
They lived up to that reputation on all accounts Thursday night at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, when the Blackhawks scored early and often and blew out the Canucks 5-0 in their own building — which was absolutely silent when the great Vancouver fans weren’t booing their own team.
Raffi Torres got in another cheap shot when he went leg to leg with Ben Smith, Alex Burrows slashed Patrick Kane, Dan Hamhuis tried to end Dave Bolland’s season with a hit to the head and Alex Edler finished the second period with an elbow to Troy Brouwer’s head.
All the game was missing was Kevin Bieksa jumping someone from behind, though he didn’t get the chance and didn’t seem to like it much when Brouwer dropped the gloves and hit back.
So let’s see what the geniuses from the NHL offices decide to do about those two hits to the head, but don’t hold your breath expecting justice from Colin Campbell and Co.
Meanwhile, the Canucks are now officially terrified of the Hawks again, having twice failed to close out the series as the teams head back to Chicago for Game 6, with Vancouver knowing goalie Roberto Luongo is in full-blown meltdown and pondering three straight years of Chicago misery.
Think the $10 million goalie gets another chance to start Sunday in Chicago on a short leash? Can’t wait to find out.
For the Hawks, however, it was simply all good, as Corey Crawford continues to sparkle as he recorded his first playoff shutout.
But going into Game 5, the Hawks had zero goals through four games from the trio of Kane, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, and their Norris Trophy winner had played well in only one of the first four games.
Well, you asked for it, you got it.
Duncan Keith was just brilliant, collecting 2 goals and 4 points, Hossa had a pair, and Kane tipped in a Keith shot for his first of the series.
Hossa quickly ended the drought only 5:54 into the game when he backed in the Vancouver defense and fired from the slot to beat Luongo.
Just 24 seconds later and after a sweet pass from Ryan Johnson, Keith blasted the puck through a Brouwer screen to make it 2-0.
Kane got the third and then the Hawks drove Luongo from the game 1:26 into the second when Hossa was sprung on a break after two great passes by Bryan Bickell and Patrick Sharp.
Hossa went in and — no surprise — beat Luongo high glove side, picked the corner, and that was it for Bobby Lou.
Almost as good was the play of Brian Campbell, who probably was the Hawks’ worst player for three games and has been as good as any Hawk — maybe the best — the last two.
He had a nice assist on the Kane goal and even better was an open-ice hit on Daniel Sedin late in the first.
The offense is great, but even without Brent Seabrook the Hawks have been so much better defensively, with Keith and Campbell leading the way, and Chris Campoli, Nick Leddy and Niklas Hjalmarsson playing well in their own end Thursday.
Maybe the Seabrook injury woke up Keith, but for whatever reason these last two games he has looked like the Keith of a year ago.
So while the Hawks have a long way to go, they’re bringing the series back home with a chance to take it seven games.
That’s rather stunning when you consider how poorly they played the first three games, but when there is no tomorrow, you must get something from your stars.
They are the big guns and they must bring all their ammunition.
Thursday night in Vancouver, they did precisely that.
ŸListen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score’s “Hit and Run” show at WSCR 670-AM.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.