VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP)—After polishing off the Canucks with three wins in Vancouver, the Chicago Blackhawks don’t mind opening the Western Conference finals at top-seeded San Jose.
Troy Brouwer(notes) and Kris Versteeg(notes) scored 36 seconds apart early in the second period, and the Blackhawks eliminated Vancouver in Game 6 of the second round for the second straight year with a 5-1 win on Tuesday night.
“Starting on the road might be a good thing,” Brouwer said after the Blackhawks improved to 4-1 away from Chicago in the playoffs. “We have confidence on the road. We play a good tight road game and try not to give up too many opportunities.”
Dave Bolland(notes) scored on a short-handed breakaway with 45 seconds left in the second period, and Patrick Kane(notes) and Dustin Byfuglien(notes) added breakaway goals 35 seconds apart in the third to send Chicago back to the Western Conference finals.
“Bolland’s goal at the end of the second was the most important goal of the game,” said Chicago captain Jonathan Toews(notes), who extended his point streak to nine games with an assist on Kane’s goal. “It gave us that distance and confidence we could hold a lead going into the third period.”
Antti Niemi(notes) made 29 saves for the second-seeded Blackhawks, who will face the San Jose Sharks with a trip to the Stanley Cup finals on the line. After losing Game 5 at home against the Canucks, the Blackhawks feel at home on the road.
“We like the way we play on the road but we’re disappointed in the way we play at home,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “It’s confusing everybody around the league in the playoffs but at the same time we’ve got a little momentum.”
Shane O’Brien(notes) scored 3:44 into the third period, and Roberto Luongo(notes) finished with 30 saves for the Canucks, who were knocked out in the second round for the third time in four years. Vancouver hasn’t advanced past the second round since 1994 when the Canucks reached the Stanley Cup finals.
“We wanted this opportunity,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “We wanted this challenge, and for the second year in a row we weren’t able to get it done.”
Exactly one year after Luongo melted down when Chicago knocked Vancouver out with a 7-5 win in Game 6, the goalie had a brilliant first period. He gloved Patrick Sharp’s(notes) breakaway with 6:13 left, and kicked out the left pad to stop Byfuglien’s tap-in on the goal line 8 seconds later.
“It’s disappointing to be out again against these guys,” Luongo said. “I don t really have any answers. We just didn’t get the job done at home which is really surprising.”
Sami Salo(notes) played 48 hours after taking a slap shot in the groin that forced him out of Game 5 and required a hospital visit. But his partner on the top pairing, Alexander Edler(notes), left the game with an ankle injury after being hit hard by the 6-foot-4, 257-pound Byfuglien with 3:24 left in the period.
He didn’t come back for the second, and the mixed-up pairings quickly allowed two goals. O’Brien made a bad pinch in the Chicago end, creating a 3-on-2 that Brouwer finished with a redirection.
It was the first point of the playoffs for Brouwer, who was a healthy scratch since Game 1 despite 22 goals in the regular season. The Vancouver native was minus-5 in his first eight postseason games after his father was rushed to the hospital with a blot clot on his brain in early April.
“Early on it was a little tough,” said Brouwer, who missed the final four games of the regular season to be with his father after surgery. “I was leaving the rink calling my mom to see how my dad was doing every day. Now I know he’s made some good strides, now I can focus on hockey. I’m happy the coaches stuck with me a little bit and were able to give me another opportunity.
Kevin Bieksa(notes) gave up the puck coming out of his end on the next shift, and Versteeg picked it up on a 2-on-1 break. Vancouver had a great chance to get back in it on a late power play, but Pavol Demitra(notes) lost the puck while playing in Edler’s spot on the point, and Bolland made it 3-0.
“I don’t think I have the fastest speed in the NHL but I knew I could get around him,” Bolland said.
Vancouver had six shots in the second period—three on the power play in the final minute—but managed 10 in the first seven minutes of the third, forcing the Blackhawks to take a timeout. It worked. With the Canucks pressing, Kane and Byfuglien scored on consecutive shifts.
“You can’t really blame the goaltender,” Kane said. “He played real well in the first and after that we just kind of took over. If you look at all our goals I think they had breakdowns defensively.”