CHICAGO -- The champs are alive. Dave Bolland wouldn't let them die.
Bolland returned to Chicago's lineup for the first time since suffering a concussion six weeks ago and contributed a career playoff-high 4 points to extend the Blackhawks’ season at least two more days. Bolland had a goal and 3 assists to lead the Hawks to a 7-2 victory against the Vancouver Canucks at the United Center on Tuesday night.
Chicago still trails 3-1 in the best-of-seven Western Conference Quarterfinal series, but it’s heading to Vancouver for Game 5 Thursday with renewed life, momentum and confidence thanks to a huge lift from the player they've missed the most in this series because of the energy he provides and the success he usually has against the Canucks, specifically Henrik and Daniel Sedin.
Bolland had 4 points before Henrik or Daniel had one Tuesday night. He was a plus-4 while the Sedin twins were a minus-5.
"I didn't think I was going to have 4 points -- I was just hoping for the win," said Bolland, who wasn't cleared to play until Tuesday morning. "But I got both. It was a fun night."
Bolland's linemates, Michael Frolik and Bryan Bickell, also had big nights. Frolik had a goal and 2 assists while Bickell, who sat out Game 3 with a wrist injury, scored the Hawks’ first goal. Patrick Sharp scored a pair of power-play goals while Duncan Keith and Brian Campbell also had goals for the Hawks, who beat Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo four times in the second period to take a 5-1 lead into the third.
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault finally turned to Cory Schneider 4:05 into the third period, but not before Luongo gave up a power-play goal to Sharp to make it 6-1. Luongo finished with 22 saves on 28 shots.
"I don't think you can say it was Luongo's struggles -- I think you can say it was Canucks' struggles," Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa said. "I don't think you can pin tonight's loss on one guy. I don't think anyone is happy with their performance, so we shoulder that as a team."
Luongo appeared to hurt himself late in the first period when he contorted his body and reached back to stop the puck from crossing the goal line, but he returned to start the second period. Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said some of his teammates noticed Luongo hurting.
"We're not going out there to hurt him. (We’re) just trying to be tough in front of him, and we did that better tonight," Toews said. "It's good to feel that he's beatable as well. He had a couple of really strong games against us, made some big saves and those made a huge difference. We wanted to turn that around."
The Hawks obviously did in an emphatic way.
Campbell gave the Hawks a 2-1 lead 5:18 into the second, and 17 seconds later Keith made it 3-1 with a shot from the high slot. Bolland scored an unassisted goal at 14:45 and sprung Frolik for a breakaway goal with 63 seconds left before the second intermission.
Sharp added two power-play goals in the third period.
Bolland hadn't played since suffering a concussion on March 9. He had a setback last week when he failed the mandatory baseline test per the NHL's return-to-play protocol. He only passed that test Tuesday morning and started to get ready for the game once the doctors gave him the go ahead.
"I knew I was ready," said Bolland, who played 25 shifts totaling 15:58. "I knew once I did the test and the doctor said I was OK I was ready to go. You don't want to get in too quick with these things because you never know what is going to happen, but I knew my head was 100 percent and tonight was my night to come back."
Toews said Monday the Blackhawks hadn't yet exposed the Canucks for what they really are. He wouldn't go into detail on the comment when he said it, but after the shellacking Chicago put on Vancouver on Tuesday, he explained what he meant.
"All I was trying to say was if we get a couple of things to go our way, get a couple-goal lead on that team, they turn into a different team," Toews said. "That confidence definitely helps us quite a bit and we want to keep that pressure on them because they're not unbeatable. We respect them and what they do well as a team, but not too much."
The Canucks clearly turned into a different team in the third period, when the game turned ugly and the teams combined for 88 penalty minutes.
Chicago defenseman John Scott was assessed two 10-minute misconducts. Raffi Torres, Victor Oreskovich, Tanner Glass and Maxim Lapierre all received 10-minute misconducts for Vancouver. Bieksa and Viktor Stalberg fought with four minutes left after Stalberg laid a big hit on Bieksa, who clearly took offense to it.
"It's not very often this year after a game that I've said that we got outworked by the opposition, but we got outworked tonight," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "We're going to park this one, turn the page on it, and get ready for the next one. We know the adjustments we need to make are real simple."
Toews also admitted that the NHL in fact gave the Hawks added motivation by not suspending Torres for his shoulder-to-head hit on Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook in Game 3. Seabrook did not play in Game 4 but Torres was in the lineup.
"I adds insult to injury when we don't get the decision we want," Toews said. "You're not going to lay down and let that team take four games in a row from you, especially when they pull stunts like that. We went out there and played for every single guy, including Seabs, and showed what we can do when we have that motivation."
They'll need to show more of it in Vancouver to add fuel to the hope that yet a miracle can happen in the NHL twice in as many years. Philadelphia came back from a 0-3 hole against Boston last season to win the series. Chicago still believes it can do the same.
"I know there is a tougher challenge going forward in Vancouver, but we're just happy to have the momentum," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "We felt there was no pressure on us going into today' game and that's not going to change."