But in Game 2, they found out how it feels to be on the receiving end of a late rally as the Chicago Blackhawks scored three straight times in the third period to overcome a 2-1 deficit after 40 minutes and won the game 4-2.
"For sure, it's a different feeling," forward Henrik Sedin told reporters after the Canucks returned to Vancouver on Tuesday. "We knew they were going to come out strong last game. We played a really good 10, 15 minutes. In the third we didn't have much."
The series is deadlocked 1-1 heading into Wednesday's Game 3, just as it was a year ago when these clubs met. Now, as the Canucks find themselves on another comeback track from a poor showing, Sedin hopes they can learn from their 4-2 series loss to Chicago a year ago.
The Canucks were on the verge of taking a 3-1 series lead when the Blackhawks also rallied late en route to the first of three straight wins.
"We learned something last year and, hopefully, we can show that (in Game 3)," said Sedin.
During the regular season, the Canucks rallied 11 times when trailing after the second period to post victories, and they recorded two more comeback wins as they eliminated the upstart Los Angeles Kings in the first round. Sedin hopes his club can learn from the L.A. experience in their sequel with Chicago.
"Last series against L.A. we had a lot of games and a lot of times during games when it could have been over," he said. "Being down 2-1 and them being up late in the fourth game, too, (we) learned a lot for sure. If it would have been before, past years, I think we could have packed it in, I believe, and we didn't do that. We came out stronger."
Chances are the Canucks will come out stronger in front of their white-towel-waving fans after splitting the first two games on the road. Vancouver finished second in the league behind Washington in home wins during the regular season and, for the most part, dominated the Kings, save for an unlucky overtime loss off a bad bounce.
But Chicago coach Joel Quenneville, whose club ranked near the top of the league in regular-season road wins, dismissed Vancouver's home-ice advantage in the next two games. After all, a number of clubs have posted important road wins and, in the notable cases of Montreal and Detroit, secured series victories away from home.
"This year is very unusual as far as you look at the track record of the road team," said Quenneville. "I don't think there's ever been a trend like this year. But I think teams are excited about playing games and the only thing you got to worry about when you got a disadvantage is the matchup."
Accordingly, both clubs talked about matching up better against each other in Game 3. The Canucks hope to make amends for giving up a shorthanded goal and showing little on the power play, and also aim to establish more of a net presence around Chicago goaltender Antti Niemi. The Blackhawks, meanwhile, look to continue to keep Henrik and Daniel Sedin in check and keep a tight leash on Vancouver's second line, which features Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond.
"(In Game 2) we let them do pretty much whatever they wanted to do," said O'Brien. "Their guys are going hard to the net, snowing (goaltender Roberto Luongo), bumping him, slashing him. We've got to play a lot meaner, a whole lot grittier. It's playoff time."
O'Brien said the Canucks let the Blackhawks off the hook after dominating the first 10 minutes of Game 2. He was "upset" with his team's lack of a physical or emotional response.
"There has been a lot of talk about the fine line of not scrumming up, this and that," said O'Brien. "But at the end of the day, we're playing for the Stanley Cup here. You've got to push back. Show them that you want it."
From whistle to whistle, he said, the Canucks have to get "a lot meaner, a lot more desperate" and "a lot more in their face." Vancouver did not respond adequately after the Blackhawks put more muscle in uniform.
"They put their meat in the lineup last game and they did the job," he said. "We're going to have to come back and hold serve at home."