ST. LOUIS — One win away from a first-round playoff sweep, the Vancouver Canucks are anything but cocky. A loss from making their first post-season appearance in five years a colossal dud, the St. Louis Blues are not panicking.
The Canucks will attempt to neutralize another sellout crowd in Game 4 tonight with the no-frills road-game mentality they used in the regular season. All sweep talk was steered away Monday, as easily as Roberto Luongo has handled shots in this series.
“Nobody’s going to talk about that stuff,” said Steve Bernier, who scored the go-ahead goal in a 3-2 victory Sunday night that put the Canucks up 3-0.
“We came to St. Louis with one thing in mind: play shift to shift and not try to do everything extraordinary.”
The Blues will lean on the second-half success that launched them from last in the Western Conference to sixth place despite injuries to stars Paul Kariya, Eric Brewer and Erik Johnson. They finished the regular season 9-1-1 to qualify with one game to go before running into Luongo & Co.
“We’ve been counted out before and surprised people, so we’re not going to dwell on the past three games or it’s just going to drag you down,” forward David Backes said. “One game at a time.
“You’ve got to get the first one in your bag, and hopefully they haven’t cancelled our trip to Vancouver because we plan on using that plane.”
Kariya could return for a must-win game two days after coaches decided following his first full workout with the team that he needed more time. The star forward is coming off a pair of hip operations, the last in February, and hasn’t played since early November.
“He feels good, he’s skating well out there,” coach Andy Murray said. “Paul will tell me when he’s ready to play.”
Canucks centre Mats Sundin said Monday his groin injury wasn’t much better, a day after he was a lineup scratch. Sundin, who scored the go-ahead goal in Game 2, said his status will probably be determined at the morning skate today.
“Obviously, you want to be out there and playing every shift and every game, especially this time of year,” the 38-year-old Sundin said.
“Hopefully it progresses along as quickly as possible.”
Even without Sundin, the Canucks rode special teams in taking a commanding series lead. Vancouver scored all three goals on the power play, going 3-for-5, while shutting out the Blues on six chances with the man advantage.
The Blues are 1-for-17 on the power play in the series. They’ve totalled three goals overall while getting stymied by Luongo and a pesky penalty-kill unit that seldom allowed St. Louis to even set up shop in the offensive zone in Game 3.
St. Louis was third overall on the penalty kill and eighth on the power play in the regular season, but might be a bit intimidated by Luongo. Even when in position in Game 3, they seemed to wait for the perfect shot.
“It’s been a matter of not bearing down and burying them when we’ve had the chance,” said Brad Boyes, who led the Blues with 33 goals in the regular season.
“The power play has got to score goals. If not that, then we’ve got to find a way 5-on-5 to score.”