VANCOUVER – The impossible is suddenly starting to look possible for the Chicago Blackhawks.
The ghosts the Vancouver Canucks thought they had buried have come back to haunt them again.
Duncan Keith and Marian Hossa scored two goals each as the Blackhawks embarrassed the Vancouver Canucks 5-0 Thursday night to stave off elimination a second time in their Western Conference quarter-final series.
Patrick Kane also scored for Chicago, who trail 3-2 in the series but will ride a freight train of momentum home for Game 6 Sunday night. Rookie goaltender Corey Crawford made 36 stops for his first playoff shutout.
“We’re going in the right direction,” said Hossa, who scored his first two goals of the playoffs. “There is still lots of work ahead of us.”
The Blackhawks haven’t just beaten Vancouver two games in a row to climb back into the series, they have dazed and confused the Canucks. The defending Stanley Cup champions won Game 4 in Chicago 7-2 and have outscored Vancouver 12-2 the last two matches.
“I think we are just trying to build it one game at a time,” said Keith, who also had two assists. “We are focused.
“I don’t think we played our best in the first three games. We still felt we were in every game. We played the way we can in the last two games. We’re back in it now. We know there is a lot of hockey and a long, tough road to go. We believe in this locker room.”
The Canucks looked to be in the driver’s seat when they took a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. But Chicago has grabbed the wheel and Vancouver is desperate trying to avoid heading for the ditch.
“After three games you would have thought that we were in their heads,” said Canuck goaltender Roberto Luongo, who was pulled after allowing four goals on 12 shots.
“There’s ups and downs in the playoffs and the key is we’ve got to stay composed. We don’t want to be caught in these situations, but we’ve got to take a deep breath and relax a little bit.”
For the second consecutive game the Hawks chased Luongo out of his net. He’s allowed 10 goals on 40 shots.
Hossa was asked if Chicago has gotten into Luongo’s head.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I can’t see in his head.”
Game 7, if necessary, will be Tuesday in Vancouver.
Given the chance to eliminate the Hawks at home, the Canucks were expected to be on the attack from the first faceoff. Instead it was the Hawks who drove the net and created traffic in front of Luongo.
The game was over in the first period. Hossa, on a power play, and Keith scored goals 24 seconds apart. Kane made it 3-0 on another power play with just over 12 minutes gone.
The score was 5-0 with less than five minutes gone in the second. If it had been curling, the teams could have shaken hands.
“I thought we played pretty good and kind of eliminated any chance they had of bouncing back,” said Kane. “When you score early like that you really put the pressure on.”
Crawford’s best save came in the first period when he got his chest in front of an Alex Burrows shot off a rebound. He even got involved in the scoring, picking up his second assist of the series on Chicago’s first goal.
“We built a lot of momentum the last game,” said Crawford.
”I felt I needed to be a little bit better to give us a chance but everyone has stepped up their game.”
There were boos among the sellout crowd of 18,860 at Rogers Arena as the Canucks were routed at home, bringing back memories of past playoffs lost.
Chicago eliminated the Canucks from the second round of the playoffs the last two seasons.
“It was another game we are not proud of,” said defenceman Kevin Bieksa. “They capitalized on some mistakes.
“We have to more forward and put this one behind us.”
Some of the fans who swaggering around this hockey-mad city just last week are now nervously wondering if an upset is unfolding before their eyes.
“There’s probably going to be a lot of questions on our group,” said coach Alain Vigneault.
“We’ve got tremendous faith in these players and a tremendous belief in what they can do. It’s up to us now to go out there . . . and do it.”
Vancouver rolled into the playoffs after the best season in franchise history. The Canucks won the Presidents’ Trophy for the top record in the NHL.
The Blackhawks were inconsistent all year and needed a loss by the Dallas Stars on the last day of the season to back into the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.
Chicago has been down 3-0 in the playoffs 18 times but this is the first time they have extended a series to a sixth game.
Only three teams in NHL playoff history have come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series. Just last year the Philadelphia Flyers battled back from 3-0 to beat the Boston Bruins.
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville hopes history repeats itself.
”We like the momentum,” he said. “We look back a year ago with what Philly did and it gives us a little (more) momentum.”
Vancouver defenceman Keith Ballard and forward Victor Oreskevich did not dress for the game. They were replaced by defenceman Aaron Rome and forward Cody Hodgson.
Chicago defenceman Brent Seabrook missed his second consecutive match after suffering a concussion in a hit by Raffi Torres in Game 3.
Notes: Ryan Kesler and Burrows combined for 54 goals during the regular season. They have none in the playoffs. …Luongo allowed six goals only once during the regular season, a 6-2 loss to Minnesota on Oct. 19. …Vancouver has led playoff series 3-0 twice before, 1982 against Calgary and 2009 against St. Louis. The Canucks won both series.