The Canucks didn't need to move mountains to win Wednesday. All they needed to do was move one mountain of a man, Dustin Byfuglien
-- and they couldn't do it.
The Chicago Blackhawks
' 6-foot-4, 257-pound right wing made life miserable for Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo
, scoring three goals from inside of 13 feet to lift Chicago to a 5-2 win at GM Place and a 2-1 lead in their Western Conference Semifinal series.
The 25-year-old's first career playoff hat track came one game after he played 14:41 as a defenseman. Coach Joel Quenneville
moved him back to forward on the top line with Patrick Kane
and Jonathan Toews
-- and Byfuglien came up with a game nearly as big as he is.
None of the goals earned him much in the way of style points.
Byfuglien's first-period power-play goal was off a rebound after Luongo stopped a point blast by defenseman Duncan Keith
. His second-period goal -- also a power-play goal -- came after Toews drove the net and forced Luongo down to the ice to make a save, leading to yet another rebound that Byfuglien banged home.
His third goal late in the third period encapsulated everything he's about. Byfuglien drove the net, taking Canucks defender Alexander Edler
with him, and had the puck deflect off his skate and past Luongo, who wound up in the back of the net with the puck thanks to the hard-charging Byfuglien.
"He's big Buff. He's doing what he's got to do out there," said Toews, who assisted on all three of Byfuglien's goals. "He's crashing whether he's playing forward or on the blue line. He's doing some good things out there. I think in the last couple games especially, on the power play, he's been a good presence in front of the net."
Even when Byfuglien wasn't picking up the trash in front of the net, he was making life miserable for the Canucks. He was knocking down defensemen and mixing it up in the corners whenever he could. All three of Byfuglien's goals came off rebounds, but Luongo didn't want to give credit to the Blackhawks for any of the pucks he left lying in prime scoring areas.
“When there’s traffic, you know, and there are shots, sometimes it’s tough to control the rebounds," Luongo said. "Duncan Keith
has a slapper from the top of the circle, I don’t know how you can control a rebound like that. It squirted out, I tried to cover it, and obviously there were some sticks there whacking at it.
"That’s the way they play. The only way we can answer is the same thing on the other side.”
"He played a real strong game and obviously he did a real good job in front of our net," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault
said. "I think what we're going to have to do is a better job, or try to a better job of protecting the front of our net."
Can anyone on the Canucks handle Byfuglien when he's in front of Luongo?
"No, not really," Byfuglien said. "That's my job to get position and make them work around me."
"I could only say from battling against him in practice that sometimes you can't really move him," Toews said. "I think he's one of those guys when there's a puck race or a battle, their players definitely know that he's there and maybe give him a little more respect. It's good for whoever is out there playing with him."
Not only did Byfuglien get the job on the scoreboard, he might have gotten to the Canucks psychologically too.
If Canucks weren't getting into scrums with Byfuglien after whistles, they were complaining to the officials about him. When one man can draw and divide the attention of so many players, it appears that the gigantic Byfuglien might've found a way to crawl inside the heads of the Canucks.
"I definitely think so," Byfuglien said. "They got to worry about me coming and worry about getting hit."
Those are very big words from a very big man who delivered the biggest game of his career Wednesday night.
Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DLozoNHL