CHICAGO (AP) Patrick Kane bled from the mouth, and his teammates took some hits, too. For all the bumps, though, the Chicago Blackhawks left the Vancouver Canucks just about beaten.
With a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference semifinals, the Blackhawks will try to end the series Monday night at home.
“We’re pumped and we’ve got to take advantage of it and not sit on anything,” captain Jonathan Toews said Saturday, after Chicago’s 4-2 victory in a bruising Game 5 at Vancouver. “We don’t want to get satisfied at all. We’ve got a huge opportunity and we’ve got to take advantage of it.”
The Blackhawks moved one win away from their first conference finals appearance since 1995 after getting a pair of goals from Dustin Byfuglien and making the Canucks pay for several foolish penalties.
The worst was this: Tied at 2 with 6:44 remaining, Kevin Bieksa got called for high-sticking Patrick Sharp. Chicago made the most of it, and Kane produced a beautiful assist on Dave Bolland’s go-ahead goal.
Kane made a neat fake around Mason Raymond and threaded a saucer pass from the right circle through the defense to Bolland in the left circle. Bolland gathered the puck and knocked it past the stick of diving goalie Roberto Luongo to make it 3-2. That put the Blackhawks in position to close out a tense series.
“It’s going to be real tough, they’re not going to let down, they’re going to battle right to the end and so are we, and we’re going to have to come out with our ‘A’ game and get off to a good start,” Byfuglien said.
The Blackhawks took a 1-0 lead for the first time in this series. They stood their ground after they fell behind and absorbed the hard hits while dishing out a few, themselves.
“There’s no doubt about that and there’s no doubt in my mind that we can play better,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. “There’s a lot of room for improvement in our case.”
They could start by cutting back on the penalties.
After the call against Bieksa, Ryan Kesler was whistled for hooking defenseman Brian Campbell – who appeared to take a dive – at 16:07 of the third and hurt the Canucks’ comeback chances. Although Vigneault said those penalties were “deserved,” he questioned Bieksa’s penalty on Sunday.
“How we came up short-handed in that scrum I don’t get,” he said. “But at the end of the day you have to deal with bad calls, deal with good calls and find ways to put your best game on the ice. Obviously, so far, they have been the better team.”
It would help if the Canucks put more pressure on Nikolai Khabibulin, considering they registered just 21 shots – 10 after the first two periods. Then again, that was six more than they managed in Game 4, when the Blackhawks won 2-1 in OT. Vancouver hasn’t taken more than 21 since the series opener.
“It’s not good enough,” Canucks forward Mats Sundin said. “Obviously we’ve got to generate more offense.”
They never could slow Chicago, even though they got physical. And as the final seconds ticked away, stoic Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville nearly let out a smile, the corner of his lip turning up slightly.
A win on Monday might even draw a full grin.
“I thought we did good things all night long,” he said.
They didn’t flinch when Sundin fired a shot past Khabibulin’s stick at 11:16 of the second, giving the Canucks a 2-1 lead, or when things turned nasty.
Chicago’s Andrew Ladd bowled over Rick Rypien in front of the Canucks net and got rammed into the crossbar, resulting in a penalty for Ladd. Rypien leveled Kane later in the period, leaving him with a bloody mouth, and Kane came up bleeding again early in the third when he took a stick from Taylor Pyatt while double-teamed along the boards.
Neither blow resulted in a penalty for Vancouver.
But a skirmish late in the second led to an extra roughing penalty against Shane O’Brien. That led to Byfuglien’s tying goal.
These teams are tired of each other, and the Blackhawks would love nothing more than to put away the Canucks.
“It’s not easy to take control of a series like this and we feel we are in a great situation,” Toews said. “It’s just up to us not to be satisfied for one second.”