And, just like that, the lower seeded team has given itself a chance to close out the series at home. Can’t ask for much more than that.
Though the Blackhawks finally scored first on Saturday night in Vancouver, the Canucks rallied to take a 2-1 lead mid-way through the game, and the Hawks, once again, found themselves trailing in a close playoff game.
More than 15 minutes into the first, Mr. Dustin Byfuglien went to the net, found a juicy Brian Campbell rebound and slammed it home. Campbell’s one-timer came off a nice cross-ice set-up from Kris Versteeg.
But, never straying too far from script, the ‘Nucks scored two to put themselves in the driver’s seat again. Late in the first, Kyle Wellwood floated one to the slot from the hash marks on the side boards. On its way to the net, the slowly moving puck hit a couple impediments, including Ryan Kesler’s stick, and squeaked through Nikoalai Khabibulin’s legs. Then, mid-way through the second, on a 3-2 break, Mats Sundin rifled a bullet past Khabibulin to take the Canucks’ only lead of the night.
The Sundin goal came after about a minute of sustained Blackhawk pressure and a missed centering pass from the stick of Troy Brouwer, ticketed for Samuel Pahlsson’s tape. Pahlsson moved to his left just before the puck left Brouwer, and the loose puck gave Vancouver a break the other way.
The Hawks weren’t done.
In the final two minutes of the second period and on the power play, Brian Campbell, moving across the point with the puck, found Dustin Byfuglien streaking down the middle from top to bottom. The puck found Buff in the slot, and a quick snap shot evened the game at two. The second goal told the same story as the first: a good decision by Campbell and a finish by Byfuglien.
Then, late in the third after an exciting final frame controlled by the Blackhawks, the Hawks finally got the chance they were waiting for. After a zone-hold by Patrick Kane, the puck found its way back to Kane along the half-wall. Kane had room, walked towards the net and found Dave Bolland on the far side buck naked. Bolland took his time, waited for Luongo to dive across the crease and threw a bullet past the goaltender for the Hawks’ first lead since the first period.
What Kane didn’t realize was the defenseman on his side, Willie Mitchell, was without a stick, though judging from Mitchell’s penchant for giving up big goals, it’s unlikely he could have done anything to stop Kane with room.
To round out the game and the scoring, Havlat took advantage of a Ryan Kesler offensive zone blowout and went in alone on an empty net, sealing the deal and giving the Hawks their first lead in the series at 3-2.
Other Notes from Game Five:
— Imagine the spring time backlash if Dale Tallon would have swapped Dustin Byfuglien for Michael Nylander, as many Hawk fans proposed early in the season.
As we’ve guessed in this space before, the offseason reality may be Byfuglien or Martin Havlat, and it’s not clear at this point Tallon will choose Havlat. In fact, with each Byfuglien hit and goal, it becomes more likely Buff will stay. The question becomes: is there enough wealth left to keep Havlat?
With a handful of teams reportedly ready to pursue Havlat, it’s unlikely money won’t lead him elsewhere.
— After getting 11 on net in the first, the Hawks held Vancouver to five shots in each of the final periods. Though Brent Seabrook got caught flat-footed a couple times, the Keith-Seabrook pairing played very well, leaving the Sedin sisters with just one assist on the night combined.
— The Toews/Kane line played very well Saturday night. Brouwer played on the wing for most of the night with Patrick Sharp getting some late opportunities to play with the young gentlemen. Brouwer played well again.
— Shane O’Brien and Kevin Bieksa should learn to concentrate on hockey, eh? Each seemingly chirps all game long, and both took stupid penalties in a close playoff game that led to Blackhawk power play goals. In a scrum following a whistle late in the second, O’Brien attempted to goat Byfuglien into a fight. Instead he got a knuckle sandwich from Matt Walker, who didn’t approve of the Hawks’ best player being taunted. O’Brien got a five minute major and a roughing call. A minute later, Byfuglien tied the game, scooting down the middle of the slot off a pass from Campbell.
Bieksa raked Sharp over the face with his stick while tripping him with his leg from behind in the third. Moments later, Kane found a wide open Bolland for the winning goal.