VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The Vancouver Canucks celebrated as if they had already won the Stanley Cup following Tuesday's 2-1 overtime win over the Blackhawks in Game 7.
All the victory did was advance the Canucks to a second-round series with Nashville, but finally beating the Hawks after two straight playoff failures was like a ton of bricks being lifted off their shoulders.
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"This is extra special, to get a little payback, and it feels good," Canucks center Ryan Kesler said. "This wasn't an eighth seed. They were the defending Stanley Cup champions. I've never wanted anything in my life as much as I wanted this game."
Goalie Roberto Luongo called beating the Hawks a bigger win for himself than capturing the 2010 Olympic gold medal when he was in goal for Canada against the United States.
Luongo went from series goat to hero in Game 7 with his save on Patrick Sharp on a power play in overtime; a season-saver for the Canucks. Luongo bolted from the right post to the left to rob Sharp.
There was bedlam inside Rogers Arena and out on the streets of Vancouver after Alex Burrows picked off Chris Campoli's clearing try early in overtime and blew a fluttering slap shot past Corey Crawford, who had no chance to make the save and extend what was the game of his life.
"I was skating around in circles celebrating by myself," Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa said. "It was the greatest celebration I've even been apart of in my life, and I didn't know where to go."
Not all of the Canucks were as gracious toward the Hawks in victory as Kesler.
"They had no business being in the series," Henrik Sedin said. "We outplayed them in five of the games."
Bieksa also fired a shot at John Scott, although he didn't mention the Hawks enforcer by name.
"It does feel a little sweeter beating these guys," Bieksa said. "Obviously, you feel sorry for some of them, but with a couple of the more arrogant guys, it feels good."
If anything, the Hawks exposed the Canucks as a beatable team, just as Jonathan Toews spoke of after Game 3 when it was a 3-0 series for Vancouver.
The Canucks better be ready for the gritty and annoying Predators on short rest in their second-round series that starts tonight. Then it would be either San Jose or Detroit in the Western Conference finals, two teams with more depth than the Hawks but just as talented.
"Obviously, it's a good feeling, but we didn't get into the playoffs just to get by one round," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said.