Blackhawks avoid elimination again
Marian Hossa wasn’t sure if the Chicago Blackhawks had gotten back in Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo’s head. But they are back in their series with the Canucks.
Defenseman Duncan Keith had two goals and two assists and the Blackhawks stayed alive in their Stanley Cup title defense, routing Vancouver 5-0 on Thursday night to cut the Canucks’ lead to 3-2.
Marian Hossa, with his first two goals of the series, chased Luongo early in the second period as the Blackhawks have bounced back impressively after losing the first three games of the series. Since then, Chicago has dominated a Canucks team that it eliminated from the last two playoffs, outscoring them 12-2.
”I don’t know,” Hossa said when asked if the Blackhawks were back in Luongo’s head after he was pulled a second straight game. ”I can’t see in his head.”
Patrick Kane also scored his first goal of the first-round series for the Blackhawks, who return home for Game 6 on Sunday night looking to become the fourth team in NHL history to overcome a 3-0 series deficit.
”We built a lot of momentum the last game,” Corey Crawford said after 36 saves for his first playoff shutout. ”It just kind of carried over for tonight.”
Vancouver no longer looks like the team that won the Presidents’ Trophy with the best regular-season record. But there are lots of similarities to the squad that was knocked out the last two years while falling apart defensively.
”After three games, you would have thought that we were in their heads,” Luongo said. ”Now all of a sudden it’s 3-2 and people suggest the opposite.”
Luongo, pulled in the third period of Game 4 after giving up six goals, didn’t make it through the second period this time. He was pulled after giving up his fourth goal on 12 shots 1:26 into the second period, but it didn’t make a difference. Cory Schneider was beaten by the first shot he saw, Keith’s point blast through traffic, the second like that for the Chicago defender.
”We’re facing elimination every game here so our fight has to be here and I think that’s the difference,” Keith said. ”It’s not a coincidence they are Presidents Trophy’ winners, so we got a lot of respect for them. But at the same time we believe we can play with them.”
Chicago played a second straight game without rugged defenseman Brent Seabrook, who sustained a concussion when he was shouldered in the head by Raffi Torres in Game 3, a blow the Blackhawks felt deserved a suspension. They rallied behind Seabrook’s absence — and Torres presence — in Game 4, and again Thursday, with Seabrook’s normal defensive partner, Keith, leading the way.
”There’s always motivation when you are facing elimination but when you see your teammate get hit like that, I don t think anyone on our team liked the type of hit it was,” said Keith, addressing reporters with Seabrook’s jersey hanging in the locker beside him. ”We’ve moved on, but at the same he’s a good teammate and friend and we use everything we can as motivation to come out fighting.”
After Crawford robbed Alex Burrows on an early power play, Hossa, who only had one assist in the series, walked untouched into the high slot late in a Chicago advantage and snapped a shot past Luongo’s glove 5:54 into the game.
”This is the best I’ve felt in a while, the last couple of weeks,” Crawford said. ”But it seems like everyone on our team is playing good hockey.”
Keith doubled the lead 17 seconds later with a screened point shot, and a power-play point shot was tipped in by Kane — his first goal of the series — for a 3-0 lead 6 minutes after that. Hossa ended Luongo’s night on a breakaway early in the second period, and Keith added his second goal — and fourth in three games.
Canucks captain Henrik Sedin was quick to point out his team was still up 3-2 in the series. It just didn’t feel that way to anyone watching the last two.
”It’s the playoffs. It’s momentum back and forth and they have it right now and it’s up to us to take it back early on in Chicago,” Sedin said. ”We’ve got to believe in ourselves. We have a great team here and we’ve got to show that.”
NOTES: This is the 18th time Chicago has lost the first three games of playoff series, but the first time the Blackhawks have battled back to force a Game 6. Crawford also had an assist, his second of the series, giving him more points than several key Canucks forwards. Vancouver made roster adjustments from Game 5, with Aaron Rome in for Keith Ballard, an apparent healthy scratch, as the sixth defenseman. C Cody Hodgson was back on the third line, and Torres was dropped down to the fourth line in place of LW Victor Oreskovich.