VANCOUVER -- Turns out Dustin Byfuglien is more than a tough guy. He's also a sniper.
Byfuglien scored Chicago's first two goals, including a power-play tally that tied the game late in the second period, as Blackhawks beat Vancouver 4-2 on Saturday night to take a 3-2 series lead in the Western Conference Semifinal.
Byfuglien had one goal in the opening round against Calgary and none on seven shots through four games against the Canucks. But he opened the scoring late in the first period, swatting the rebound of Brian Campbell's point shot behind Roberto Luongo.
After goals by Ryan Kesler and Mats Sundin gave the Canucks a 2-1 lead, Byfuglien got the Hawks even and changed the game's momentum when he scored a power-play goal with 1:38 left in the middle period.
Byfuglien took a pass from Campbell in the high slot and wristed a screened shot that went through Luongo's pads, getting the Hawks even before the intermission.
"It was kind of through a screen, there was a lot of traffic going on," Byfuglien said. "You just throw pucks on net and you never know what can happen." The goal sent Chicago to the locker room brimming with confidence.
"That was huge; we didn't want to go into the third period down a goal because that just makes us more desperate," said forward Troy Brouwer, who provided the screen.
Instead, the Blackhawks were even -- and they went ahead with 5:05 left in regulation on Dave Bolland's second game-winning goal of the playoffs. With Chicago on a power play, Bolland was on the receiving end of Patrick Kane's laser pass from the right circle. He got the puck in the lower left circle, loaded up and scored his fourth goal of the post-season.
"I didn't want to miss handle the thing," smiled Bolland, who also assisted on the game-tying goal and game-winner in Chicago's 2-1 overtime win in Game 4. Bolland was quick to praise with Kane, the object of much of the Canucks' physical attention throughout the game.
"Kane's a tremendous passer, he's a tremendous player as well," Bolland said. "He can get you the puck, he knows what to do out there and if you're an open guy, he'll get it to you."
Martin Havlat hit the empty net with 62 seconds let, leading to a shower of debris from the 18,630 unhappy fans at G.M. Place.
It was the perfect finish to a great effort by Chicago -- one that many Blackhawks felt was dominated by Byfuglien.
In true tough guy style, Byfuglien didn't forget his role on the team -- he also dished out a team-high six hits. Each punishing blow helped the Blackhawks knock a little more wind out of the Canucks.
"You look at Buff's hits throughout the entire playoffs, he's always at six, seven, eight hits every night," Brouwer said. "He's an unbelievable player with a great shot and he was able to do it all tonight, he scored twice and got a pile of hits so he was contributing all over the ice."
Sundin had his best game of the series, if not the postseason. He assisted on Kesler's power-play goal late in the first period, beat Nikolai Khabibulin with a blast from inside the left circle midway through the second and was a plus-1 in 16:03 of ice time, his second-highest total of the series.
Those numbers meant little to Sundin following a disappointing loss.
"I don't know what to say, we worked hard, but there are some things we have to do better," said Sundin, who, along with many Canucks, was befuddled as to how the game got away from them.
The Blackhawks aren't as fuzzy when it came to how this game played out and it all started with opening the scoring for the first time in this series. From there Chicago made a point to play disciplined hockey in what turned out to be a chippy affair -- both the tying and go-ahead goals came on power plays set up by needless penalties taken by Kevin Bieksa.
"We didn't try to get in on all the stuff after the whistle," Bolland said. "We knew if we got into all that we'd be running around and they've got a great PP so we've got to stay out of that stuff and just play 5-on-5."
The Blackhawks gave the Canucks only two power-play opportunities and have only surrendered three in the last two games.
For as much as you'd expect Chicago's dressing room to be rocking after its biggest win of the season, many Blackhawks said they might not even take tonight to savor the victory because all their focus needs to be on Game 6 on Monday night.
"[There are] no guarantees at all," Bolland said. "They took it to us in our building so we've got to be ready for that game.
"We know they're going to come out hard, they're not going to give up, they're a good team and we can't take them lightly."
The Canucks have also erased the memory of Game 5 already and are confident that they can steal a game in Chicago and bring the series back to Vancouver.
If not, their season is over.
"I know a lot of people are going to write us off, but we believe in this locker room that we can win, we should have won both games in Chicago," said Luongo, who stopped 26 shots. "We're going to come out Monday and we're going to play the hardest game we've played all year and make sure we put our best game on the ice and bring this back here."
With less than five minutes to play in the second period, Rick Rypien decided it was time to go hunting. Vancouver was forechecking in Chicago’s zone when Rypien rocked Brian Campbell twice before lining up Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews for a hit each. He finished with a team-high six hits.
Defenseman Brian Campbell assisted on two of Chicago's first three goals for his fourth and fifth assists of the playoffs. Campbell now has three points in this series, all in the last two games.
Chicago has won three of its last four road playoff games, scoring three or more goals in each.
Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa was the wrong man in the wrong place on two occasions. He took the extra roughing penalty that led to Dustin Byfuglien's game-tying power-play goal late in the second, and was in the box again for high-sticking Patrick Sharp when Dave Bolland scored with 5:05 left in regulation to put Chicago ahead to stay.
Jonathan Toews was in Chicago’s lineup, but for the fifth straight game he didn’t generate anything on offense. Toews has no goals in his last nine games and only four assists over that span.