Blackhawks win, take 3-0 lead against Sharks
CHICAGO (AP) – Dustin Byfuglien skated hard into the high slot and Dave Bolland delivered the puck to him just at the right moment. Byfuglien drove it into the net and suddenly the Chicago Blackhawks were one win from the Stanley Cup finals.
The 257-pound Byfuglien scored his seventh goal of this postseason 12:24 into overtime Friday night and the Blackhawks beat the San Jose Sharks 3-2 to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the Western Conference finals.
“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.”
And that’s what the Blackhawks hope to do Sunday at the United Center – finish off the Sharks, the regular-season champions of the Western Conference and get to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 1992.
“With San Jose, they’re such a good team, we definitely can’t, you know, let off at all. We got to keep going right to the final buzzer,” Byfuglien said.
“We want to feel like that’s the most important game we play all year. That’s the motivation and incentive. We know we have to be better than tonight,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said.
Bolland scored on a breakaway to put Chicago ahead 2-1 in the third period, but Patrick Marleau answered with a rebound goal with 4:23 left in regulation to tie it and force overtime.
Marleau also scored in the second period on a power play, giving him four goals in two games. Patrick Sharp had a man-advantage goal for the Blackhawks.
Antti Niemi had 44 saves for the Blackhawks, stopping five shots in overtime, including one on Devin Setoguchi from the right circle. Evgeni Nabokov finished with 35 saves and had stuffed Patrick Kane earlier in overtime when the quick forward skated to the net.
“We’ve just got to stick with it and stay with it longer and harder, I don’t know how many missed shots we had,” Marleau said. “If we can hit the net that much more, the better our chances.”
And if the Sharks need any comfort they can look to this year’s playoffs when the Philadelphia Flyers came from 3-0 down to beat the Boston Bruins.
“It just happened, so it’s not impossible. We can try to feed off of that,” Marleau said.
The Blackhawks, 7-1 in the playoffs on the road, are 4-3 at home. They spent the afternoon after their morning skate at a local hotel – giving them the road flavor they seem to deal with so well.
“I don’t think we’re superstitious as a group or anything like that,” said Jonathan Toews, who had two assists.
“When you’re in the hotel or you’re spending more time together on the bus, we’re not getting away from that. We’re not thinking about other things that may be going on away from the rink.”
Bolland, whose defense was a key in the first two games, picked up a loose puck at center ice after Toews blocked a shot. He skated ahead, and at the last second maneuvered in to beat Nabokov with just under seven minutes remaining in regulation to give Chicago a 2-1 lead.
But the lead didn’t last long. About 2 1/2 minutes later, Marleau scored on a rebound with 4:23 to play.
The Sharks were 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,” San Jose’s Joe Thornton said.
“We’ve just got to stay calm. We’re playing good hockey, but for whatever reason we’re down 3-0.”
An apparent early first-period goal by San Jose’s Joe Pavelski was disallowed following a video review.
As Pavelski battled Duncan Keith for a rebound in front of the net during a power play less than two minutes in, the puck went into the net. But after the review, officials ruled that Pavelski directed the puck in with his skate and waved it off.
NOTES: Toews’ two assists gave him a point in 12 straight playoff games, setting a club record he had shared with Hall of Famer Stan Mikita, who had an 11-game streak in 1962. Toews has 25 points in this year’s playoffs.