Mike G. Morreale | NHL.com Staff Writer
CHICAGO -- The Calgary Flames never had a chance.
How else would you depict the tornado that touched down inside United Center when the Chicago Blackhawks scored as many goals as Calgary had shots (3) in the opening 20 minutes Saturday night en route to a 5-1 victory in Game 5 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal.
"I was terrible tonight," Calgary captain Jarome Iginla said. "As a group, we were terrible and there's no excuse."
You get the feeling the Flames will be hearing "Chelsea Dagger" by The Fratellis in their sleep after receiving ample opportunity to learn the lyrics with each goal the Blackhawks scored -- the 22,563 in attendance made certain of that by singing along as the song blared away.
Even when the Flames appeared to have a pulse early in the second, after Dustin Boyd scored his first of the playoffs to pare the margin to 3-1, the Blackhawks hit the reset button on offense and scored twice more to make sure they held serve in a series that has seen the home team win every game. The Flames hope that trend continues Monday night, when they host Game 6 at the Pengrowth Saddledome.
Unlike the previous two games in Calgary when the Blackhawks scored first but would eventually lose, the Hawks kept pushing for 60 minutes and provided goalie Nikolai Khabibulin with plenty of support. Khabibulin had to stop just 19 shots for his 34th playoff victory.
One has to wonder if Khabibulin was even a little bored in the opening period after facing just three shots.
"Obviously, I'd like to touch the puck a little more, but those things like that you cannot control so it is what it is," he said. "As a goalie, you just stay sharp and do the best you can."
The Blackhawks were attentive to detail, charged the net to tip pucks, denied Calgary's snipers much room to operate down low and played the body to the delight of another sellout crowd. One could actually argue that the young Blackhawks, who are making their first playoff appearance in six seasons, actually grew as a team in Game 5. They scrapped, killed a 5-on-3 power-play in the final period and re-established themselves as the better team.
"It was our best game of the series," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville confirmed.
Flames coach Mike Keenan agreed that Chicago's fast start -- the Hawks led 3-0 just 11:08 into the game -- made the difference.
"Chicago had a tremendous start and great momentum," Calgary coach Mike Keenan said. "They took advantage of their opportunities to build up a three-goal lead. My team wasn't prepared to play and that was the fault of the coach."
The Blackhawks even forced Keenan to make a goalie change when he inserted backup Curtis McElhinney for Miikka Kiprusoff with 13:46 remaining in the second period after Andrew Ladd's goal put Chicago ahead 4-1. Kiprusoff, who was pulled for the third time in his last 12 playoff games, was noticeably upset with the quick hook.
"I guess I was a little surprised when they pulled Kipper," Khabibulin said. "I mean, it was still early in the game, but it's not for me to decide. He's a veteran goalie and the next game is back in their building. He's played a lot of games and knows how to recover from games like this."
Actually, Keenan could have laid a foundation of bricks in front of his net and it probably wouldn't have made a difference -- the Blackhawks were that crisp and sharp.
"Our fourth goal (by Andrew Ladd) was a huge one because they had scored to open the second and had taken some of our momentum away," Quenneville said.
The series certainly hasn't lost its physical edge and one would expect that to continue as the series shifts to Calgary. The Flames held a 42-38 edge in hits, but Chicago had the better face-off winning percentage (52 percent-48 percent), blocked more shots (12-6) and finished with a 28-20 advantage in shots on goal.
The Hawks also become the first team to win a game in this series after scoring the opening goal.
"There have been quite a few lead changes in this series, but (Saturday) marked the first time a team would win after scoring first in the game," Flames forward Mike Cammalleri said. "I don't think it was a case of us being stunned from the start; I don't think we were able to put forth the effort to win tonight. We were not ready for the game, not only in the opening period, but all the way through, and I just think we have a lot more to give than that."
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.
Chicago rookie forward and Calder Trophy nominee Kris Versteeg scored his second goal of the playoffs on a nifty backhand low in the left circle with 8:52 remaining in the first period, just 19 seconds after Patrick Sharp had given the Hawks a 2-0 lead, to literally send the crowd of 22,563 in United Center into an absolute frenzy.
Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook, who entered Game 5 averaging 26:56 of ice time in the series, not only had 1 goal and 2 assists, he also had 5 hits and 2 blocked shots. His power-play goal to open the scoring in the first period was his first goal of the playoffs. The 24-year-old Seabrook appeared in all 82 regular-season games for the Hawks this season and led the club in hits (224) and blocked shots (113).
Out of the last 27 NHL playoff series that were tied 2-2, the Game 5 winner has gone on to win 25 times. The two exceptions were won by the Flames.
The Blackhawks scored as many goals as Calgary had shots in the first period. Chicago outshot the Flames 15-3 in the opening period. Eight of those attempts occurred during three power-play opportunities.
After going pointless in Game 1 of the series, Chicago left wing Patrick Sharp has points in four straight games, including his third goal of the playoffs during a three-goal uprising in the first period. The 27-year-old forward is tied for the team lead in scoring in the playoffs with 6 points.