Blackhawks eliminate Canucks
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) – Troy Brouwer and Kris Versteeg scored 36 seconds apart early in the second period, and the Chicago Blackhawks eliminated the Vancouver Canucks in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals for the second straight year with a 5-1 win on Tuesday night.
Dave Bolland scored on a short-handed breakaway with 45 seconds left in the second, and Patrick Kane and Dustin Byfuglien added breakaway goals 35 seconds apart in the third to send Chicago back to the Western Conference finals.
The second-seeded Blackhawks will face the West’s top-seeded team, the San Jose Sharks, with a trip to the Stanley Cup finals on the line.
Antti Niemi made 29 saves for the Blackhawks, who won all three games in Vancouver in the series.
Shane O’Brien scored 3:44 into the third period, and Roberto Luongo 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.
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 turned away Byfuglien and Kane in close during the first two minutes, gloved Patrick Sharp’s breakaway with 6:13 left, and kicked out the left pad to stop Byfuglien’s tap-in on the goal line 8 seconds later.
Canucks defenseman Sami Salo played just 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, left the game favoring his right leg after being thrown hard into the end boards 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 defensive pairings quickly allowed two goals.
O’Brien made an ill-advised pinch to make a hit in the Chicago end, leaving Kyle Wellwood to try to defend Brouwer. But Brouwer easily got behind him to redirect Patrick Sharp’s pass over Luongo’s glove.
It was the first point of the playoffs for Brouwer, who was a healthy scratch since Game 1 of this series despite scoring 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.
Brouwer missed the final four games of the season to be with his father after surgery.
Kevin Bieksa gave up the puck coming out of his end on the next shift, and Versteeg picked it up on a 2-on-1. He used Andrew Ladd as a decoy and skated in alone on Luongo before snapping in his third goal of the series.
Vancouver had a great chance to get back in the game on a late power play, but Pavol Demitra lost the puck while playing in Edler’s spot on the point. Bolland raced the other way and put in a shot off Luongo’s stick.
Niemi got help from Brent Sopel to keep the Canucks scoreless in a wild scramble before the buzzer on the same power play. He received another break when Bieksa hit the crossbar just before the penalty expired in the third.
Niemi made his best save early when Daniel Sedin skated out of the corner in tight. The Canucks finally lived up to their pledge to create more scrambles in front of the goalie, but Chicago won the battles for the loose pucks. That included a chance in which Jannik Hansen had an empty net in front of him with the puck in his skates.
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 breakaways on consecutive shifts.
NOTES: Chicago captain Jonathan Toews had an assist on Kane’s goal to extend his point streak to nine games (six goals, 19 points). … Tomas Kopecky came out of the lineup for Brouwer. … Luongo declined to talk to reporters after the morning skate for a second straight game. … The Canucks took the pregame warmup without wearing helmets, a trend they started before their 4-1 win in Game 5 to avoid elimination in Chicago.