VANCOUVER, British Columbia – The Vancouver Canucks have spent the entire week telling everyone they aren't the same team that was knocked out of the playoffs by the Chicago Blackhawks the last two seasons.
Not the same team that won Game 1 both times only to blow momentum-killing leads in Game 2 and go on to lose the series. Not the same team that couldn't beat the Blackhawks on home ice.
The Canucks backed up all that talk Friday night, but not before a few flashback moments.
Daniel Sedin scored his second goal midway through the third period and the Canucks survived three near comebacks and a frantic final few minutes to beat the Blackhawks 4-3 and take a 2-0 lead in the first-round playoff series.
"Yeah, but it's a different team," Sedin, who also had an assist, said when asked if it felt familiar when Chicago twice pulled within a goal in the third period. "Nobody said anything. It was pretty quiet and we were focusing on the next shift and that's what needs to happen."
Jannik Hansen opened the scoring, and Alexander Edler made it 3-1 with 13.1 seconds left in the second period. But Roberto Luongo, who made 22 saves, was beaten by a shot off the boards early in the third, and with 7:10 left after putting a rebound into the slot to set up a tense finish.
"There was no panic, we were calm the whole way," insisted Ryan Kesler, robbed twice to keep it close in the third. "I'm confident in this group. We don't panic, just stick to our system and stay solid. It's a different team this year. We're growing together and we've been through this before."
With the victory, the Canucks headed to Chicago for Game 3 on Sunday night with a chance to take a stranglehold on the best-of-seven series.
But after failing to score the first four periods, Chicago served notice it won't go quietly.
Ben Smith had two goals, Viktor Stalberg also scored and Corey Crawford made 23 saves for the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks.
"They are not the Stanley Cup champions for nothing," Luongo said. "We didn't expect them to keel over, or roll over. They were coming strong."
Smith scored the Blackhawks' first goal of the series with 5:10 left in the second period to make it 2-1, and added his second with 7:10 remaining in the third to make it 4-3. But Smith also accidentally tipped Edler's point shot past his own goalie as the second period was winding down.
"It was my fault. The stick shouldn't be in the lane, the body should," Smith said. "That was a tough one, especially with 13 seconds left. Playoff time you got to sacrifice the body and just didn't get in front of that one."
Chicago had won five straight playoff games in Vancouver while knocking out the Canucks the past two seasons. The Blackhawks also lost the first game both times before bouncing back to win Game 2 and the series. A couple of times it looked as if it might be happening again.
Stalberg pulled Chicago within a goal 1:56 into the third, and Crawford kept it close with a couple of great saves on Ryan Kesler. But Sedin, the NHL leader with 104 regular-season points, scored on a 3-on-2 rush, cutting into the middle and snapping a low shot past Crawford's glove.
Smith made it close again on a room-service rebound in the slot, but the Canucks survived a frantic last couple minutes with Crawford out for an extra attacker.
"We just kept getting within one all night and it just wasn't enough," said Patrick Kane, who got his first point of the series on Smith's second goal. "The second half of the game to get three goals gives you some momentum."
None of them came from the Blackhawks top players, however. Captain Jonathan Toews, who lost the puck on an early breakaway, and fellow offensive stars Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp don't have a point yet. And Chicago's fourth-ranked power play was shotless in two chances.
"We need more from our top guys," coach Joel Quenneville said.
NOTES: After losing RW Tomas Kopecky to a hit in Game 1, Chicago LW Bryan Bickell left holding his right wrist after a hit 5 minutes into the third period. He didn't return and will be re-evaluated Saturday, Quenneville said. Vancouver second-line LW Mikael Samuelsson was a late scratch because of illness. D Aaron Rome dressed as the 12th forward. ... Kopecky was replaced by Fernando Pisani. The Blackhawks also subbed C Marcus Kruger for Jake Dowell. ... Vancouver LW Raffi Torres can return from a four-game suspension in Game 3, but wasn't able to practice Friday because of food poisoning.