Blackhawks look buff
Chicago pushes Flyers to brink
CHICAGO — Big Buff got bumped from a struggling top line and responded with a performance that has lifted the Chicago Blackhawks to within one win of the Stanley Cup.
Dustin Byfuglien scored two goals and had a pair of assists as Chicago got off to a quick start and beat the Philadelphia Flyers, 7-4, last night for a 3-2 lead in the Stanley Cup finals.
The 257-pound Byfuglien, who had eight goals in the first three rounds of the playoffs but none in the first four games against a tough Flyers defense, had a power-play goal in the second period and added an empty-netter in the closing seconds.
“Getting down two games in their building, we had to come back with some fire and get on them and show them we weren’t going to quit. Right from the get-go we moved our feet and were physical,’’ Byfuglien said.
Byfuglien’s top line that had included Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews was split for Game 5, a strategy that worked for coach Joel Quenneville. They had combined for just one goal and four assists in the first four meetings with Philly. Kane also had a goal and an assist, and Toews added an assist last night.
Brent Seabrook added a power-play goal, and Dave Bolland, Kris Versteeg, and Patrick Sharp also scored for the Blackhawks.
Chicago can capture the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1961 with a victory Wednesday night in Philadelphia in Game 6.
“We’re not going to think about that now. We have to keep levelheaded and go into that building with the same mind-set and have fun,’’ Versteeg said of Wednesday’s chance to win it.
All five wins in the series have come on home ice.
Scott Hartnell, Kimmo Timonen, James van Riemsdyk, and Simon Gagne scored for the Flyers. Gagne’s goal with 2:36 left made it 6-4, but a half-minute later Byfuglien converted the empty-netter.
“We got outworked pretty good,’’ Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said.
The Blackhawks blitzed goalie Michael Leighton with three goals in the final 7:43 of the first period, and the United Center erupted as Chicago quickly found the offensive game that had helped it make the finals.
Leighton was pulled — for the second time in the series in favor of Brian Boucher — after giving up three goals on 13 shots in the first period. The Blackhawks finished the period with a 13-7 edge in shots.
“We weren’t very good in the first period,’’ Laviolette said, adding he didn’t know who would start in goal for Game 6.
Trailing, 3-0, the Flyers wasted little time in the second period getting one of the goals back as Ville Leino took the puck to the side of the net and tried to stuff it in. But after hitting goalie Antti Niemi, the puck sat just off the line before Hartnell came in and knocked it home just 32 seconds into the period.
Kane got his second goal of the finals on a nice pass from Andrew Ladd. Ladd had his shot blocked by Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger, recovered the puck and passed it to Kane, who streaked to the net uncovered and beat Boucher for a 4-1 lead.
Pronger finished with a miserable minus-5 rating.
Aggressive from the outset, shooting from all angles, getting the puck through the neutral zone and able to keep their own end clear, the Blackhawks were in control early after two losses in Philadelphia that appeared to swing the momentum in the Flyers’ favor.