CHICAGO – The Chicago Blackhawks blitzed the Calgary Flames early, rolled to a convincing victory and took control of their Western Conference quarter-final.
Chicago got three first-period goals, including scores from Patrick Sharp and Kris Versteeg 19 seconds apart Saturday night, to roll to a 5-1 victory and a 3-2 lead in the opening-round playoff series.
“I don’t know if it was domination. We wanted to start fast, get that first goal,” Sharp said. “We wanted to get the second one, as well. “
Game 6 is Monday night in Calgary, where the Flames won Games 3 and 4 to even the first-round Western Conference series.
Chicago will have a chance in that game to wrap up the franchise’s first playoff series win since 1996. A deciding Game 7 – if needed – would be back at the United Center on Wednesday night.
Chicago’s Brent Seabrook, who also had two assists, opened the scoring on a power play 9:19 into the game. A little less than two minutes later, the quick goals from Sharp and Versteeg made it 3-0.
“I thought we started really well and we kept coming at them for 60 minutes,” Sharp said.
The Flames looked like the slower team that they are from the outset and just never were in the game.
“The team wasn’t prepared to play at all for a number of reasons. The bottom line when the team doesn’t respond or isn’t prepared, that’s the coach’s responsibility,” said Calgary coach Mike Keenan, who pulled goalie Miikka Kiprusoff in the second period. “We weren’t prepared for the push from them and that’s my job.”
Dustin Boyd cut it to 3-1, scoring for Calgary early in the second.
But when Chicago’s Andrew Ladd got it right back with a goal, Keenan had seen enough and pulled Kiprusoff with 6:14 left in the period. He gave up four goals on 18 shots.
“I thought the goal was kicked in. It gave us a time of separation in the game to at least have the goal reviewed,” Keenan said. “I told Miikka if they allow the goal he’s finished, if they don’t allow the goal he’s going back in.”
But a video replay upheld the score to make it 4-1, and Curtis McElhinney took over in goal for the Flames.
McElhinney gave up Cam Barker’s third goal of the playoffs, a slapper from the left circle that appeared to hit a skate and put Chicago ahead 5-1.
“We just weren’t ready. I wasn’t nearly good enough,” Flames start Jarome Iginla said. “I was terrible tonight. There’s no excuse for that. … We’ll be ready for the next game.”
Chicago’s Nikolai Khabibulin, who gave up nine goals in the two games at Calgary, made 19 saves. He held the Flames scoreless when they had two-man advantage for nearly a minute and a half in the final period.
But it was the first period that made his job easier.
“It was one of our best periods of the year,” Khabibulin said. “We were skating, jumping to loose pucks.”
Seabrook took a nice centring pass from Martin Havlat and beat Kiprusoff from between the circles. Chicago had an early 8-0 shots advantage, six on two power plays, before Seabrook’s first career playoff goal.
The Blackhawks continued to pepper the goal, using their speed to beat the Flames to loose pucks. Chicago’s dominant play was reflected in its 15-3 shots margin in the opening period.
Sharp muscled in a backhander from the crease to make it 2-0. Just 19 seconds later, Versteeg collected a loose puck that Calgary’s Olli Jokinen didn’t see and rammed it home from the left side, setting off a wild crowd at the United Center.
Boyd scored on a rebound after a driving shot by teammate Adam Pardy, but minutes later Ladd fought defenceman Dion Phaneuf and Kiprusoff in the crease before shoving it in – a score upheld by video replay.
Notes: Calgary’s Rene Bourque returned after sitting out Game 4 after apparently aggravating an ankle injury. Craig Conroy and Daymond Langkow, who had to leave the fourth game with injuries, also were back for the Flames.