Blackhawks 5 Canucks 2
VANCOUVER — Big forward Dustin Byfuglien usually gives the Vancouver Canucks headaches.
He broke Vancouver’s back Wednesday, scoring three goals, two on the power play, as the Chicago Blackhawks rolled to a convincing 5-2 victory over the Canucks to take a 2-1 lead in their NHL Western Conference semifinal.
“Sometimes it happens to a guy,” a grinning Byfuglien said after the game. “I have been trying to work hard and it finally paid off.”
Big and strong, Byfuglien parks himself in front of the net like a battleship. It would take a tugboat to move him.
“That’s my job to get position and make them work around me,” said Byfuglien, who had not scored a point in his eight previous playoff games this season.
“They have to worry about me going in and worry about getting hit. It’s part of the game.”
None of Byfuglien’s goals were pretty. His power-play goals came off rebounds during scrambles in front of Canuck goaltender Roberto Luongo. He completed his hat trick on a play where he drove Luongo into his own net.
The Canucks argued for goaltender interference, but the goal stood.
Marian Hossa, with a goal and an assist, and Kris Versteeg scored for Chicago. Jonathan Toews had three assists and Patrick Kane two.
Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen scored for the Canucks.
Game 4 of the best-of-seven series will be played Friday in Vancouver. The series returns to Chicago for Game 5 Sunday.
The Canucks controlled much of the game but found themselves playing catchup after the Blackhawks climbed into a 2-0, first-period lead.
Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin was frustrated over the chances the Canucks missed.
“We had a ton of chances in the first,” he said. “They get the lead and it’s a tough team to play.
“We’ve just got to score on the chances we have. It’s unacceptable to have those kind of chances and not put them in.”
Byfuglien gave Chicago a 3-1 lead midway through the second after Burrows was sent off for a foolish unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
The big forward slipped the rebound of a Toews shot past Canuck goaltender Roberto Luongo. Byfuglien celebrated by taunting the Vancouver crowd behind the net.
Burrows made amends for his earlier brain cramp by making the score 3-2 with just 54 seconds left in the period. He fired a wrist shot that seemed to handcuff Chicago’s Antti Niemi. That brought the towel-waving, sellout crowd of 18,810 to their feet.
It was Burrows’ second goal of the playoffs after leading the Canucks with 35 during the regular season.
Hansen scored Vancouver’s first goal at 9:07 of the second. He was in the right place at the right time when Alex Edler’s shot hit Niemi’s blocker, bounced off Hansen, and into the net.
Niemi made some big saves early. He dragged a pad on a Hansen shot on a breakaway, then got a blocker on a Burrows blast.
Both of Chicago’s first-period goals came with plenty of traffic circling around Luongo.
Versteeg opened the scoring with his second goal of the playoffs at 5:19. Hossa banked a shot off Vancouver defenceman Kevin Bieksa’s skate that creeped through Luongo’s pads. Versteeg managed to get his stick on the puck and slide it past the goal line.
Byfuglien earned his first point of the playoffs just six seconds after Ryan Kesler was sent off for tripping. Duncan Keith unloaded a shot from just inside the blue-line that rebounded off Luongo’s blocker. Byfuglien, anchored in front of the net, backhanded a rebound past Luongo.
A Canuck you wouldn’t expect got involved in an altercation with Chicago’s Dave Bolland near the end of the first period.
Daniel Sedin, more noted as a scorer than scrapper, took exception when Bolland got his stick up in between Sedin’s legs before a faceoff. A furious Sedin began grappling with Bolland. Both players received minors.
Centre Ryan Johnson returned to the Canucks lineup after missing four weeks with a broken foot. Johnson is one of the Canucks best shot blockers and penalty killers.