The Chicago Blackhawks put the Vancouver Canucks on the ropes with a pair of quick goals in the second period, then scored shorthanded to deliver the knockout blow in a 5-1 victory yesterday to win the NHL Western Conference semifinal series.
Troy Brouwer and Kris Versteeg scored 36 seconds apart in the second to give Chicago a 2-0 lead. Then Dave Bolland stuck the fork in with a shorthanded goal with just 45 seconds left in the period.
“Those two goals were pretty valuable,” said Brouwer, who sat out three games as a healthy scratch. “It swung a bit of momentum our way.
“Our biggest goal was the shorthanded goal. You never want to give up a goal in the last minute of a period.”
Patrick Kane, on a breakaway, and Dustin Byfuglien, who had kicked sand in the Canucks’ face all series, also scored for the Hawks, who won the best-of-seven series 4-2.
The victory came one year to the day after Chicago beat Vancouver 7-5 in Game 6 to win the 2009 Western Conference semifinal.
Defenceman Shane O’Brien scored for the Canucks, who have lost in the second round of the playoffs three of the last four years. His goal came moments after Kevin Bieksa had hit the cross-bar.
Canuck goaltender Roberto Luongo was left searching for answers in a quiet Vancouver dressing room.
“I don’t know why we played the way we did,” said Luongo. “I don’t know if we just assumed it was going to happen here at home tonight.
“It could have easily been 2-0 or 3-0 in the first period.”
It was another disappointing end to the season for the Canucks, who have not advanced past the second round of the playoffs since losing in the 1994 Stanley Cup finals.
The Blackhawks flew to Vancouver packed so they could travel on to San Jose where they will play the Sharks in the Western Conference final.