CHICAGO – The kids made sure the Blackhawks are moving on.
Patrick Kane had his first hat trick and Jonathan Toews scored the go-ahead goal in a wild third period Monday night as Chicago advanced to the Western Conference finals for the first time since 1995 by beating the Vancouver Canucks 7-5.
“It’s about time I got the first hat trick. I’ve been waiting two years. I guess it can’t come in a better game than this,” the 20-year-old Kane said.
In the thunderous United Center, the Blackhawks rallied from a one-goal deficit twice in the third period and put up four scores against Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo to win the series 4-2. Next up is either Detroit or Anaheim.
“It’s awesome. We didn’t want to go back to Vancouver,” the 21-year-old Toews said. “Nobody knew what was going to happen. It was unbelievable. … We’ve found ways to come back, especially late in games.”
Even the usually unemotional Chicago coach Joel Quenneville was shaking his head over the final period, when he said it was so loud he had trouble making line calls.
“I don’t think anybody anticipated the craziness of the third period. The turns and swings were gigantic,” Quenneville said.
“How it unravelled and unfolded, it was an amazing ending.”
When Chicago’s Troy Brouwer was called for goaltender interference with just under eight minutes remaining, Daniel Sedin scored quickly with a shot from the left circle that put the Canucks ahead 5-4.
Kane responded. He got a puck from behind the net and then manoeuvred to the side and put a shot under Luongo to tie the game at 5.
Then, 49 seconds later on a power play, Toews worked around the side and tried to pass across the crease to Patrick Sharp. But the puck deflected in off Vancouver’s Alexander Edler with 6:11 left.
Kane capped his hat trick with a hard back-hander past Luongo with 3:43 remaining, sort of an insurance score.
“I just picked up the puck in the middle, saw I had a 1-on-1, made a move through the defenseman’s stick and shot,” Kane said.
Chicago’s Nikolai Khabibulin made 33 saves and Luongo 23.
“We had some chances early and I made some saves, but the rest of the way I didn’t help my teammates out,” said Luongo, who was near tears in the Canucks’ locker room. “When you let in seven goals, I don’t think that’s a very good performance.”
Sedin had a pair of goals for Vancouver, which lost the final three games of the series in a crushing end to what the Canucks hoped would be a run to the Stanley Cup.
“We had a chance to go a long way,” Sedin said. “That’s the most disappointing thing. This was a great opportunity.”
Vancouver’s Mats Sundin – in what could have been the veteran centre’s last game in the NHL – scored to put the Canucks up 4-3 early in the third period, but Adam Burish countered on a nice centring pass from Patrick Sharp to tie the game.
The Blackhawks took a 3-1 lead in the second period on power-play goals by Kris Versteeg and Toews. The Canucks came charging back to tie on scores from Sedin and Shane O’Brien to momentarily quiet the frenzied crowd.
Mason Raymond gave the Canucks a 1-0 lead in the first period on a wrist shot from the right circle with Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler standing in the crease. But Kane answered 2 minutes later with his first goal of the game, skating around Mattias Ohlund near the boards and, with Luongo apparently screened by a teammate, driving the puck past the goalie’s glove.
Versteeg’s goal broke the tie in the second period and came after Vancouver’s Rick Rypien drove Chicago’s Ben Eagler into the bench door for a cross-checking penalty. The play came soon after Chicago’s Andrew Ladd crashed into Kesler, shaking him up and drawing blood from his face.
Toews got his first goal of the series on a rebound of his own shot to give the Blackhawks a 3-1 lead midway in the second period. But Sedin scored on a high wrist shot from the left circle. It was the first goal of the series for Sedin, whose 31 goals led the Canucks in the regular season.
The Canucks tied it on O’Brien’s first playoff goal, a shot from just outside the left circle that came with Kyle Wellwood screening Khabibulin.
Notes: Combining regular season and six playoff games, the Blackhawks announced they had drawn 1,006,920 fans so far this season.