Young guns help Hawks eliminate Canucks
The Chicago Blackhawks' young stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane accounted for three goals in just over three minutes late in Game 6 for a 7-5 home victory that eliminated the Vancouver Canucks from the Western Conference playoffs on Monday night.
Just 49 seconds after Kane notched his second goal of the game to tie the score 5-5 in the third, Toews notched the winner at the 13:49 mark of the third.
"We're surprising a lot of people, including ourselves, to come this far, but all year we've never been satisfied," Toews told Hockey Night in Canada. "We've just enjoyed it. We've had fun playing hockey, and the sky's the limit for us."
For good measure, Kane added a hat trick goal at 16:17 on a stunning backhand shot to bury the Canucks.
"I had chills going down my spine after that third goal, just a great feeling. Even more important, we got the win," Kane told HNIC.
Chicago reaches the conference final for the first time in 14 years, where they will face the winner of the Detroit-Anaheim series.
The result means that for a second consecutive season there will be no Canadian team in the conference finals. The Montreal Canadiens were the last Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup, in 1993.
Vancouver received two goals from Daniel Sedin and a goal and an assist from Mats Sundin.
"We had a chance to go a long way," Sedin said. "That's the most disappointing thing. This was a great opportunity."
Sundin played his best playoff game, but one that could be his last for the team — or even in his career. Sundin signed a one-year contract after taking several months off from hockey.
Mason Raymond and Shane O'Brien also scored for the Canucks.
Kris Versteeg and Adam Burish had the other markers for Chicago, but it was Kane and Toews, both under 21, who stole the show in front of a thrilled United Center crowd. Each player finished with three points.
Nikolai Khabibulin finished with 33 saves for the Blackhawks, 10 more than counterpart Luongo.
"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."
The Blackhawks had held a lead for only 30 minutes heading into Game 6, but they were on no worse than even terms for all but four minutes in the clincher.
Chicago blitzed Vancouver early, with Luongo stopping Martin Havlat in close and then on a breakaway.
The Canucks capitalized in the neutral zone to score the first goal, with Mattias Ohlund forcing a turnover midway through the frame. Sundin gathered the puck in Chicago's zone and found Raymond, who demonstrated some deft puckhandling before beating Khabibulin.
It was the fifth time in the six games that Vancouver struck first.
Kane replied exactly two minutes later. He used the boards to go around Ohlund before speeding down the right side and firing a shot from the circle over Luongo's glove.
Burish tried the same move later in the period, but the Canucks goalie stopped the shot.
Versteeg, with Rick Rypien in the box for interference, scored his first goal in seven games to give Chicago a 2-1 lead early in the second.
Duncan Keith took a backdoor pass and skated in alone on Luongo seconds later, but the Vancouver netminder prevented a two-goal lead with a pad save.
The two-goal lead did come at 10:17 of the second, with Vancouver's defenders having no answer for the speed of Chicago's puck movement on the power play. Toews was the last to touch the puck, tucking it past Luongo on a second whack.
The Canucks goalie didn't dwell on it, making a huge stick save on Game 5 hero Dave Bolland to set up Sedin's first goal, a rocket shot under the crossbar. Kevin Bieksa worked the puck up ice quickly to Kyle Wellwood set up the play.
Sedin had gone without a point in the previous two games and without a goal in six.
Raymond and O'Brien tested Khabibulin with just over six minutes left during a Vancouver flurry, while Luongo kept the score the same with a tough save on Andrew Ladd, who'd been allowed to burst into the slot.
O'Brien tried again and succeeded at 14:49 with a wrist shot to the short side. Darcy Hordichuk performed yeoman's work on the goal, pounding Chicago's defenders.
It was O'Brien's first goal since being obtained earlier this season from Tampa Bay, and his first in 148 games in total.
Khabibulin was able to adapt to a change of direction in the waning seconds of the period, knocking the puck to the corner with his blocker.
The middle of the series featured some tight-checking affairs, but the final contest featured six goals in the final period.
"I don't think anyone anticipated the craziness of that third period," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "The turns and the swings [were] gigantic, and staying with it was certainly an exciting ending for everyone at the game."
But Burish responded just under two minutes later on a play quite similar to Sundin's goal. Patrick Sharp stripped Bieksa of the puck behind the net and fed Burish in prime position at the 5:41 mark for a 4-4 score.
Seconds after Chicago's Dustin Byfuglien got away with a slash to Luongo's mask, teammate Troy Brouwer was sent off after pushing Daniel Sedin into Luongo.
Sedin got his second of the game just moments after the next faceoff, won cleanly by brother Henrik.
With 7:45 left, the Canucks had the lead for a potential Game 7 in their own building, but it was their last highlight.
Kane struck just 45 seconds after Sedin's goal, taking a bouncing puck Willie Mitchell couldn't handle and beating Luongo with a wraparound.
O'Brien's hooking penalty was fatal, with Toews's flukey goal giving Chicago a 3-for-4 ledger on the power play and a lead they did not relinquish.
Havlat and Brian Campbell each notched their second assist of the game on the goal, a prelude to Kane weaving through the Vancouver end to fire his backhander inside the post, one that will likely live on in Chicago hockey lore.
"I just picked up the puck in the middle, saw I had a one-on-one, made a move through the defenceman's stick and shot," Kane said.
With files from The Associated Press