CHICAGO – Chicago coach Joel Quenneville was asked this week if Dave Bolland should even play against the Vancouver Canucks with the Blackhawks trailing in the series 3-0.
Why risk using a guy coming off a concussion when the chances of winning a series seemed so bleak?
Bolland provided the answer Tuesday night. Emphatically.
After missing 17 games, the versatile centre was more than ready to play and showed what an impact he can have. Bolland scored a goal and had three assists as the defending Stanley Cup champs avoided being swept with a 7-2 win.
“A huge boost,” Quenneville said. “We certainly fed off his presence.”
With the Canucks still leading 3-1, the opening-round series shifts back to Vancouver’s Rogers Arena for Game 5 on Thursday night.
Bolland passed a final physical test Tuesday morning and was cleared to play for the first time since March 9. He said he wasn’t that rusty.
“The first shift for me was the toughest,” Bolland said. “Getting out there after a month, just to get your mind and body and speed, getting my feet wet. … I wasn’t thinking I’d get four points. I was hoping for the win. I got both.”
Chicago’s Patrick Sharp scored two power-play goals in a chippy final period that featured pushing, shoving, jawing and a fight between Vancouver’s Kevin Bieska and Chicago’s Viktor Stalberg.
“All score related,” Quenneville said.
“We were down by quite a few goals and there was a lot going on out there. We’ll just leave it at that,” Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said.
The Blackhawks got an offensive lift from their defencemen as Brian Campbell and Duncan Keith scored 17 seconds apart in a four-goal second period.
Bryan Bickell had a goal 1:43 into the game as Chicago finally solved Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo, who was pulled in the final period after giving up six goals.
“I felt good. I was seeing the puck well so I’m just going to put it behind me. I mean, I’m not going to beat myself up over it,” said Luongo, adding he experienced some cramping at the end of the first period, a condition that was not serious.
“I made a lot of good saves in the first period, I thought, similar to the other night and in the second they kept on pushing and got a few goals,” he said.
Asked about the performance of Bolland—who played well against the Canucks last season when the Blackhawks beat Vancouver in the conference semifinals—Luongo offered this:
“Obviously he helped a lot tonight, but he’s not a guy who is going to change the series,” he said.
Michael Frolik scored on a breakaway after a pass from Bolland to give Chicago a 5-1 lead in the second. Sharp’s first power-play goal early in the third put the Blackhawks up five and just more than a minute later, with 15:55 left in the game, Vigneault replaced Luongo with Cory Schneider.
“The score was 5-1 and you never know what could happen, so we left (Luongo) in net to see what would happen,” Vigneault said.
“We’re going to park this one, turn the page on it, and get ready for the next one. We know the adjustments we need to make are real simple.”
Sami Salo scored on a power play for the Canucks in the first period and Daniel Sedin added a power-play goal on a tip-in in the final period.
Chicago played without top defenceman Brent Seabrook, who was ruled out after taking a hard hit from Raffi Torres in Game 3, a blow to the head that many of the Blackhawks thought merited a suspension. And the Hawks took a few early shots at Torres, especially Keith, Seabrook’s usual mate on the blue-line.
With the game tied 1-1, and seconds after a Chicago power play had expired, Campbell took a nifty pass from Patrick Kane and with Jonathan Toews in front of him, scored from the left circle to make it 2-1.
And 17 seconds later, Keith rifled in a shot from between the circles for a 3-1 lead as the United Center erupted.
Later in the period, Bolland picked up a loose puck in the left circle, made a nice fake and then scored Chicago’s third goal of the period for a 4-1 lead.
Bolland later reached a loose puck and shovelled it up ice to Michael Frolik, who then beat Luongo one-on-one to make it 5-1.
Bickell, who missed Game 3 after hurting his wrist in Game 2, beat Bieska on a cut from the right wing, skated across the crease and tucked it in past Luongo for his first career playoff goal.
But three minutes later, the Canucks got even.
Salo’s long slap shot on the power play—with Alexandre Burrows and Chris Higgins trying to screen goaltender Corey Crawford—appeared to hit Campbell and went in the net.
Luoungo had 12 first-period saves. He had a nice stop on Stalberg’s rebound attempt from right in front and another save when the puck flew up in the air after a slapper from John Scott. But his best came in the final minute on a shot by Bickell when the Canucks goalie sat on the puck and with his arms pinned behind him kept it from going in.
Luongo grimaced after the play and then skated gingerly to the bench at the end of the period.
NOTES: Crawford got a rare assist on Campell’s goal for making the initial pass to Kane. … The four points were a career-high for Bolland. … Torres and Chicago’s Scott were given 10-minute misconducts in the final period. … Daniel Sedin has four goals in the four games.