-- Dustin Byfuglien's first-ever Stanley Cup Playoff goal at home couldn't have come at a better time.
After scoring nine postseason goals away from the United Center in his first two seasons, Byfuglien blew the roof off the Madhouse on Madison by scoring with 7:36 left in overtime to give the Chicago Blackhawks a 3-2 victory in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals against the San Jose Sharks on Friday night.
The Blackhawks now hold a commanding 3-0 lead in the series and will go for the throat here on Sunday afternoon.
It wasn't your typical Byfuglien goal being scored from the trenches with defenders draped all over him. Instead, the 6-foot-4, 257-pound behemoth glided through the slot with the grace of Denis Savard, took a gem of a centering pass from behind the net from Dave Bolland
, and snapped a quick shot past Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov.
Byfuglien has been a revelation since joining Jonathan Toews
and Patrick Kane
on the top line for Game 2 of the Blackhawks' second-round series against the Vancouver Canucks. In the eight games since the part-time defenseman returned to forward, he has 7 goals and 2 assists, which also happens to be his total for the entire postseason.
For Quenneville, seeing his big man score a finesse goal shows just how far the 25-year-old has come.
"Buff, he's moving well," Quenneville said. "He's got some speed behind his game. I think he's got some quickness, that consistency of his game that we're looking to him improving upon.
"I think that line has been very productive and effective in a lot of ways. I think he definitely complements Toews and Kane at the net with his size. I think everybody brings a little bit something different to the table. I think that line has been a big factor in the series.
"Buff, we like the way things are going with him."
Toews, who set a Blackhawks franchise record Friday by picking up a point in his 12th consecutive game, has been reaping the benefits of having such a hot player on his line.
"It's nice to see him get another big one for us. He's on a heck of a tear. He's playing very confident," Toews said. "But he's not making it out to be anything more than that. We're expecting he's going to keep it up."
After the game, Byfuglien saddled up to the podium and answered some questions with the gathered media:
How did the game-winning goal develop?Byfuglien:
It was just a good forecheck that we got on. The puck came up high, went back down. With good coverage, I was the third guy high. Bolland made a good play and just laid it out in the slot. All I had to do was finish. Q.
What is it about you and big goals? Byfuglien:
I don't know (smiling). It's nice to have, though. Q.
Can you just talk about the exhilaration of scoring a goal like that in a huge game like this, having the fans applaud you, then your teammates shower you with whatever? Byfuglien:
It's great. You know, it's something that I'll definitely remember, I'm guessing. You know, with good hard work, it always seems to pay off in the end. You know, it's something that -- it's nice. Q.
This is your 11th postseason goal in the first two years, but the first one at home. Did you feel like not only you proved that you can score at home, doesn't have to be on the road, that you guys got back on track at home collectively as a group?Byfuglien:
We got away from the game plan a little bit in the games during the game. We got back on track. We stuck with our game plan. It's a big thing in playoffs here. With big goals, you know, it goes with the team's hard work. Q.
Have you ever felt as confident in your NHL career as you feel right now? Byfuglien:
I'm going to have to say no. I am really confident right now. You know, playing with Kane and Toews, they make it a little easier, too. Q.
You're up 3-0. Great position to be in. Nonetheless, it's already happened once in the playoffs, somebody came back from that. Will that help keep you focused as you hope to close this out Sunday? Byfuglien:
I definitely think so. I think for the most part our team's staying focused, not letting games with the wins getting in their head, it's going to be easy. With San Jose, they're such a good team, we definitely can't, you know, let off at all. We got to keep going right to the final buzzer. Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DLozoNHL
Author: Dave Lozo | NHL.com Staff Writer