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updated: 3/22/2012 12:03 AM

Match worthy of Blackhawks, Canucks

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  • Blackhawks defenseman Nick Leddy checks Vancouver Canucks left wing Chris Higgins along the boards Wednesday during the third period.

      Blackhawks defenseman Nick Leddy checks Vancouver Canucks left wing Chris Higgins along the boards Wednesday during the third period.
    associatd press

 
 

Alain Vigneault is fortunate Roger Goodell is not his boss.

If he were, the Canucks head coach might have himself a bounty of trouble after Vancouver brought its cheap-shot theater company to the UC Wednesday night.

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Then again, there's nothing new about that.

The Canucks did all they could to live up to their reputation as the dirtiest team in hockey, targeting the Blackhawks' best players continuously in a 2-1, overtime loss to the Hawks before a raucous crowd of 21,715.

The fans were treated to a playoff atmosphere and a game worthy of the postseason, complete with tight checking, heavy hitting and the hatred these teams have come to embrace the last four years.

"That's a real NHL rivalry," said Andrew Shaw, who scored the game-winner against Roberto Luongo midway through OT when Johnny Oduya shot it in off Shaw's left shin guard. "It's pretty intense, but that's what you get when teams play in the postseason every year."

The nasty stuff began early as Alex Edler tried to put Shaw's face through the glass just a couple of minutes in, Patrick Kane and Corey Crawford were slashed, and not long after that Daniel Sedin caught Duncan Keith with a cheap shot.

With the refs letting it get out of hand, Sedin and Keith came together near the Hawks' blue line with a puck in the air between them, and Keith nailed Sedin with an elbow to the face, for which he got a two-minute minor and will soon get at least a two-game suspension -- and probably more like four or five depending on the severity of Sedin's injury.

"You saw the hit," Vigneault cried. "You didn't see a puck near the hit. You guys make the judgment call on that and the league will do what they have to do."

The good news is Keith has no history of such behavior, but the bad news is Sedin came back for only a few seconds on the next shift and never returned.

"I haven't seen the replay, so I'm not sure what happened," Keith said. "The puck's in the air and I'm trying to close the gap on him, and right at the last second he moves forward, and I don't know where the puck is. It happened fast.

"He's a great player. I hope he's OK. I'm not trying to hurt anyone. I'm out there playing my game, and it's a fast game."

It seems the Canucks like to hit opponents in the head with amazing consistency but then don't appreciate it when one of their stars is injured.

So from that point halfway through the first period, and for the rest of the game, the Canucks took turns punching Kane in the head, ripping off players' helmets and attacking Keith whenever possible.

In one scrum in the second, Keith was hit in the head by three different Canucks, kicked by Kevin Bieksa and kneed in the cup by -- you guessed it -- Alex Burrows, he of the legendary hair-pulling and finger-biting.

"Yeah, little skirmish there," Keith said. "Stuff happens."

The Hawks' power play (0-for-5) didn't happen again, but they tied the game at 1-1 in the second after a brilliant play by Andrew Brunette behind the net.

He changed direction, got Luongo's feet moving, dished the puck to Marian Hossa on the short side for a perfect pass to Kane who fired it past a sprawling Luongo on the far side.

"I saw Kaner, but there were a lot of sticks there, so I doubled back and got it to Hoss," Brunette said. "We're playing well together and the chances are coming."

Corey Crawford gave up a bad goal 27 seconds in, but he was the star of the game the rest of the way and was the reason the Hawks improved to 9-1-1 in their last 10.

"Corey was great for us tonight," said Shaw, who took a pounding all night and still led the Hawks with 5 hits. "I love hockey played this way. I like it better when we get 2 points."

brozner@dailyherald.com

•Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM, and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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