Toews has 5 points, Blackhawks take 3-1 lead
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) – Chicago captain Jonathan Toews scored three power-play goals and added two assists as the Blackhawks beat the Vancouver Canucks 7-4 on Friday night and grabbed a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference semifinal series.
Toews took over the NHL playoff scoring lead with 18 points as Chicago moved within one win of their second straight trip to the Western Conference finals. The Blackhawks have won three straight after dropping the series opener at home.
“It was one of those nights where you get some chances,” Toews said. “You throw it on net and it goes in. It’s nice for your confidence and it’s nice to get those breaks. You don’t always expect to get lucky like that.”
Patrick Sharp also scored on the power play and Tomas Kopecky added a goal shortly after another penalty expired. Chicago went 4 for 8 with the man advantage.
Brent Seabrook opened the scoring 18 seconds in, Dave Bolland scored into an empty net with 37 seconds left, and Antti Niemi made 26 saves for the Blackhawks, who can advance with a win in Chicago on Sunday.
“On our side, we took advantage of some opportunities,” forward Patrick Kane said. “The power play had a heck of a night. Overall we played well in the third period and limited their chances.”
Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Kyle Wellwood and Alex Edler scored for the Canucks. Roberto Luongo made 27 saves, but Vancouver lost consecutive home games for the second time this season.
“I think Roberto is the second best goalie in the series,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. “But that will change.”
Toews and Dustin Byfuglien, who scored three goals in Game 3, set up Seabrook’s goal on the first shift, and Byfuglien drew consecutive cross-checking penalties on defenseman Shane O’Brien. The 6-foot-4, 257-pound forward went straight to the net on the second, screening Luongo while Toews ripped a perfect shot past both of them 8 seconds after the penalty.
Toews, who had three assists in Game 3, added his second power-play goal 33 seconds into the middle period to give Chicago a 3-2 lead. A hard dump-in around the glass went off a Canucks stick on the sideboards and bounced straight to Toews. He went to the front of the net alone and redirected the puck past Luongo.
Sharp doubled the lead on a power play rebound scramble at 12:47, and the Canucks unraveled. Sedin was penalized for breaking his stick across Kris Versteeg after a whistle, and Alex Burrows cross-checked Byfuglien in the neck during a scramble. Toews converted the 5-on-3 advantage to make it 5-2 with 4:38 left in the period.
“We lost our composure again,” Luongo said. “I don’t know why it happened. We were all on the same page before the game started. One thing led to another and we lost our composure again.”
Edler scored on a power play with 1:44 left, but the Canucks couldn’t take advantage of a lineup shake-up that paid off in a wild first period.
Vancouver sat out $4-million forward Pavol Demitra and fourth-line forward Rick Rypien, reinserting rookie speedster Michael Grabner, who scored in Game 1, and giving gritty forward Tanner Glass his first game of the second round. They also moved Alex Burrows up onto the struggling top line with Daniel and Henrik Sedin, and dropped Mikael Samuelsson, who had seven goals and 11 points in the first round but just one 5-on-3 goal in this series, to the third line.
After Seabrook opened the scoring 18 seconds in, Samuelsson set up the tying goal from behind the net just over a minute later.
Toews restored Chicago’s lead midway through the period, but Burrows helped Sedin tied it again in the final seconds of consecutive power plays that included 38 seconds of 5-on-3 play. Toews scored again early in the second, and the Blackhawks never looked back.
NOTES: Chicago is 7 for 24 on the power play in the series, and converting at 34.6 percent in the playoffs. The Canucks’ penalty-killing is last in the playoffs at 64.3 percent. … Demitra led the Olympics with 10 points in seven games. He had six points in nine playoff games, but the Slovakian forward had only one assist against the Blackhawks.