SAN JOSE, Calif. – Whether it’s the room service meals, the in-room movies or the field trips to Alcatraz, there’s something about playing on the road that brings out the best in the Chicago Blackhawks.
Dustin Byfuglien and Jonathan Toews scored on deflections 90 seconds apart in the second period and the Blackhawks rolled to their record-tying seventh straight road win in the playoffs, 4-2 over the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night in Game 2 of the Western Conference final.
“The way we’ve been playing on the road, it just seems like everything has gone right for us,” said forward Patrick Kane, who had two assists. “Sometimes you get on the road, it’s just a simpler attitude. We’ve had a lot of fun with bonding in the hotel and different things. Sometimes you do that, it’s almost like you’re clicking before you’re even on the ice.”
Andrew Ladd and Troy Brouwer also scored and Antti Niemi made 25 saves for the Blackhawks, who have a 2-0 series lead. This is the closest Chicago has been to making the Stanley Cup final since getting there in 1992.
The series moves to Chicago for Game 3 on Friday night and Game 4 on Sunday. That may not be the best thing for the Blackhawks, who are only 3-3 at home this post-season.
“It’s a good start,” defenceman Duncan Keith said. “To come into this building, a tough building to come into, and to get two wins is good. At the same time as a team we realize that there’s still a lot of hockey left to be played.”
Chicago has had its most success on the road, clinching the first two series in Nashville and Vancouver before taking the first two against the top-seeded Sharks in a heavyweight conference final.
The Blackhawks are the fifth team to win seven straight road games in a post-season, joining Colorado (1999), New Jersey (1995), and the New York Islanders (1980 and ’82).
“I like our approach,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I think our focus is in the right areas. The guys are sticking together off the ice, come prepared for games, playing a simpler game than we’ve probably seen at home.”
Patrick Marleau scored both goals for the Sharks, who dropped to 0-5 at home in two trips to the conference final.
Now unless they can win at least one game in Chicago to avoid the sweep, the Sharks won’t have another shot to win at home this post-season. San Jose has lost all seven playoff series after falling behind 2-0.
“The good news is that everybody thinks we’re done,” defenceman Dan Boyle said. “We’re going to go to Chicago and try to disappoint everybody. I’m not quitting and no one else in this room is going to quit. You can throw the stats out the window. I don’t care. The task is going to be absolutely very difficult. It can be done and it will be done.”
After winning the opener on Byfuglien’s tiebreaking goal in the third period, the Blackhawks took control of Game 2 midway through the second period. Byfuglien and his 257-pound body played a big role once again.
With Byfuglien planted right in front of Evgeni Nabokov, Kane threw a puck on net from just inside the blue line that deflected off Byfuglien’s stick to give Chicago a 2-0 lead 6:59 into the second.
With Douglas Murray in the penalty box for roughing, the Blackhawks added to their lead when Duncan Keith fired a shot from the point with Toews and Byfuglien in front of the net. This time Toews got his stick on the puck to redirect it past Nabokov, make it 3-0 and silence the sellout crowd that greeted the Sharks with earsplitting applause less than two hours earlier.
“You’re not going to move that man,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said of Byfuglien. “He’s that big, that strong, he establishes his self. Better be able to control his stick. We failed to do that. Obviously, he made a huge impact on the game.”
Marleau gave the Sharks some life when Joe Thornton found him alone in the circle with a pretty cross-ice pass that cut the deficit to 3-1. But the hole proved too big for the Sharks to overcome, especially after Brouwer tipped in a shot from Niklas Hjalmarsson midway through the third to make it 4-1.
San Jose’s frustration was evident when Thornton slashed Dave Bolland while lining up for a faceoff, leading to a Chicago power play.
“They’re just getting frustrated and they can’t take it,” Bolland said.
The Sharks looked the more desperate team early, generating most of the scoring chances in the opening 10 minutes but being unable to get a puck past Niemi.
Ladd then scored the first goal with a wrist shot from just inside blue line.
NOTES: Toews assisted on Byfuglien’s goal extending his points streak to 11 games. … The Blackhawks are 17-2 all-time in the playoffs when taking a 2-0 series lead. … Thornton was on the ice for two more even-strength goals and is minus-4 for the series and minus-10 for the post-season.