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Vancouver Canucks discover big Dustin Byfuglien has soft hands, too

VANCOUVER, B.C. - Chicago Blackhawks forward Dustin Byfuglien is not just a big body who deals bone-rattling bodychecks and frustrates goalies by parking his giant frame on their doorsteps.

The six-foot-three, 247-pound bruiser also has pretty soft hands.

The Canucks found that out Saturday night when Buyfuglien scored the game's opening goal in the first period and tied it 2-2 late in the second as Chicago beat Vancouver 4-2 in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinal to grab a 3-2 series lead.

"He's a big force out there," said rugged winger Ben Eager, who knows something about physical play.

"When he's going like that, he's tough to play against, he's got a big shot, he protects the puck well and had a big game for us."

Byfuglien opened scoring at 15:22 of the first period when he buried a rebound off a Brian Campbell point shot behind Canuck goalie Roberto Luongo.

After the Canucks grabbed a 2-1 lead, Byfuglien provided a huge momentum shift with a power-play goal at 18:22 of the second period with a shot through traffic from the top of the slot.

Byfuglien's third goal of the Stanley Cup playoffs seemed to suck the energy out of the Canucks who managed only five shots in the crucial third period.

The Minneapolis product, who blossomed this season with 15 goals, shrugged off references to soft hands.

"Tonight was a good night," said the 24-year-old right-winger who led the Blackhawks with six shots on goal and leads all forwards in the playoffs with 49 hits.

"I got my chances and capitalized on them. That seemed to be the difference. (I'm) just going to the net and shooting pucks to the net, that's pretty much the key thing."

He was doing just that again when Dave Bolland scored the game-winning goal on the power-play with just over five minutes to play in the third.

Byfuglien is relatively new to playing forward. The former Prince George Cougar was a defenceman until the end of last season.

"(It's been) just hard work and not getting frustrated with yourself," said Byfuglien of his progression.

"A new position this year, first time at forward. It's been a battle and a grind and finally it's starting to pay off with the hard work."

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville agrees.

"He's had a great series, great playoffs," said Quenneville. "It started with the last 10 games of the year. It seems like he's playing his best hockey but he's a force out there physically.

"He's got a nice shot and quick hands and he finishes his checks so you notice him out there. He's been a very big factor."

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Towes said scoring chances improve when Byfuglien, an eighth-round pick in 2003, fires the puck.

"There is either going to be a rebound or it goes in," Toews said. "He's got such a great shot, when he uses it things happen.

"Getting us that first one was good. For once we got the lead. He was one of our best players on the ice, as he has been lately. He's one of those heroes that stepped up and made a difference."

Byfuglien, who also scored against the Calgary Flames in his first post-season series, said his third two-goal game this season won't change his robust style that drew boos from the crowd, especially when he went to the net.

"I just want to play physical and let them know that I'm out there," Byfuglien said. "I'm not going to let them get off easy."


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