Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo wears size 15 shoes and size 13 skates. He needed every bit of his height to beat the Chicago Blackhawks in the playoff opener.
Chris Higgins and Jannik Hansen scored in the first half of the first period, Luongo made 32 saves, and Vancouver topped the Blackhawks 2-0 on Wednesday night to take the lead in the Western Conference first-round series.
Luongo got some help from the goal posts three times, but also made some tough saves, including one with the toe of his right skate to take away a goal from Brian Campbell with 1:30 left in the first period. A beautiful cross-ice pass from Patrick Kane out of the corner left Campbell with an empty net, but the puck bounced off the post.
"Thank God for that or it would have been in," Luongo said of his big feet. "As the puck went across I saw him open and just stretched across and was able to get a toe on it and off the post. It stayed out so that was nice."
The Canucks came in as the top seed in the Western Conference and Presidents' Trophy winners, and looked the part for the first 10 minutes. They badly outshot and outhit the Blackhawks while jumping to a 2-0 lead.
Chicago opened its defense of the Stanley Cup with a loss, but after knocking Vancouver out of the playoffs the previous two seasons, the Blackhawks showed over the final 40 minutes they aren't an average No. 8 seed.
"In the first they came at us in waves, and we didn't have a good response," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we settled down the last 40 minutes and had some good quality chances, but not enough net presence."
With Corey Crawford keeping them in the game with 31 saves in his first playoff start, captain Jonathan Toews hit the post twice in the second period. Michael Frolik rang a shot off the iron with 7:30 left.
"It shows we can play with these guys," Kane said. "The first 10 minutes was the difference. We can play with these guys, we feel pretty confident we can."
After a raucous welcome from 18,630 towel-waving fans, Vancouver came out trying to hit everyone in a Blackhawks sweater and scored two early goals. Higgins made it 1-0 7:03 in with a deflected point shot, and Hansen doubled the lead with a shot over Crawford's glove on a breakaway just over three minutes later.
"A big swing on those breakaways, either a big save or a big goal and Jannik came through with a big play for us," Higgins said. "It's always like that in playoffs, guys like Jannik that don't get much press come up with big plays."
The biggest plays were made by Luongo, who was already in the spotlight after getting lit up by Chicago in the second round the past two years.
"Luongo played extremely well and a couple times he got lucky," Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa said. "But we need to get more into him. He's a big goalie, and when he sees the puck he can easily catch it. More traffic will help get rebounds goals."
Vancouver outhit Chicago 47-21, knocking forward Tomas Kopecky out in the second period with an upper body injury, and former Canucks center Ryan Johnson limped off midway through the third.
Chicago had won five straight playoff games in Vancouver, but lost the opening game of its previous two series before rallying to knock out the Canucks.
"We've won the first game the last two years of the series, as well, so they are not the Stanley Cup champions for nothing," Luongo said.
Notes: Chicago F Troy Brouwer returned after missing the final three games of the regular season with a shoulder injury. Fernando Pisani came out of the lineup. ... Chicago C Dave Bolland practiced for a second straight day, but hasn't been cleared for contact since sustaining a concussion on March 9. ... Vancouver LW Raffi Torres will miss the first two games of the series while serving a suspension for a hit on Edmonton's Jordan Eberle. ... The Canucks called up top prospect C Cody Hodgson, who has played only eight NHL games, to play on the third line.