Byfuglien goal puts Sharks in huge hole
Dustin Byfuglien scored in overtime to give the Chicago Blackhawks a 3-2 home win Friday night and a commanding 3-0 series lead over San Jose in the Western Conference final.
Byfuglien cruised into the slot unnoticed to convert Dave Bolland's feed from behind the net 12:24 into the extra frame.
"It's great, something I'll definitely remember," Byfuglien said. "Bolland made a good play and just laid it out in the slot and all I had to do was finish."
Patrick Marleau had both goals for San Jose. He has scored the Sharks' last four goals, going back to Game 2.
Patrick Sharp and Bolland scored the other Chicago goals. Jonathan Toews set up both to increase his playoff-leading points total to 25 — six clear of a group that includes teammate Patrick Kane, who had a helper of his own Friday.
Antti Niemi made 44 saves for the 'Hawks, once again outduelling Evgeni Nabokov, who stopped 35.
The Blackhawks can close out the series at home on Sunday afternoon (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 3 p.m. ET) and earn their first trip to the Stanley Cup final since 1992.
Chicago hasn't won the Cup since 1961 — the longest active championship drought in the NHL.
"We want to feel like [Game 4 is] the most important game we play all year. That's the motivation and incentive. We know we have to be better than tonight," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said.
San Jose must win four straight games, which would make them just the fourth club in league history to overcome a 3-0 deficit in a post-season series. It's a tall order, but one the Philadelphia Flyers filled just a week ago when they rallied to defeat the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
"It just happened, so it's not impossible. We can try to feed off of that," Marleau said.
Marleau shines again
The Sharks appeared to capitalize on an early power-play chance, but Joe Pavelski's goal 1:51 into the opening period was ruled kicked in.
A golden opportunity came San Jose's way early in the second period when Bolland and Marian Hossa were called for penalties in rapid succession. The Sharks looked like they might waste the two-man advantage until Marleau buried a rebound from the slot just two seconds before the first penalty expired.
The lead lasted all of three minutes and one second. With Chicago on a power play, Toews zipped a seeing-eye pass through the crease to Sharp, who banked it in off Nabokov's skate.
Toews also set up the next goal with a gritty effort. The Blackhawks captain blocked Dan Boyle's drive from the point and the puck bounced to Bolland, who raced in alone and beat Nabokov with a deke to the forehand to put Chicago up 2-1.
Marleau rescued the Sharks — if only briefly — with his second of the night, converting a rebound with 4:24 left in the third period to force overtime.
The free-agent-to-be has been in on all five of the Sharks' goals in the series. He scored a pair in their 4-2 loss in Game 2, and assisted on their only goal in a 2-1 loss in Game 1.
San Jose finished 1-for-6 on the power play, including 0-for-3 in the third period.
"We're running up against a good goaltender. We've got to keep going and persevere," said San Jose's Joe Thornton, who has just one point in the series after leading the team with 89 points in the regular season.
"We've just got to stay calm. We're playing good hockey, but for whatever reason we're down 3-0."
With files from The Associated Press