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Hawks rout Canucks 5-1 to advance to Western finals

by Dan Rosen /
VANCOUVER -- If General Motors Place served as the venue for the rest of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Chicago officials could start planning a Stanley Cup parade down Michigan Avenue right now.

It doesn't, so the Blackhawks, 5-1 in the playoffs over the past two springs in Vancouver, will happily leave the Northwest for the Silicon Valley to begin preparations for the Western Conference Final.

Chicago scored two early goals in the second period and then got a key shorthanded goal for insurance purposes just before the intermission. Vancouver got one back in the third, but the Hawks scored twice more for a 5-1 rout Tuesday night that for the second time in exactly 365 days gave them a six-game series win over the Canucks.

"We are pretty comfortable here," said Dave Bolland, who scored that backbreaking shorthanded goal on a breakaway with 44.7 seconds left in the second period. "All the guys love playing here. I don't know what it is, but it's fun."

The start date for the Western Conference Final has not yet been announced. Chicago, in the conference final for the second year in a row for the first time since 1989 and '90, won three of the four regular-season meetings against the Sharks, two in overtime. They were 2-0 at HP Pavilion, but the Sharks have been resting since knocking out Detroit in five games last Saturday.

Detroit eliminated the Hawks in the Western Final in five games a year ago. Bolland said this year's team learned a lot from that experience.

"When we played Detroit last year, we didn't know what it was going to be about," Bolland added. "We know the level we have to take it to now."

They took it there Tuesday after getting burned by Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo several times in the first period.

Luongo, with 12 of his 30 saves through 20 minutes, looked poised for another huge night, similar to the one he had in Game 5 on Sunday at the United Center when he made 29 saves in a 4-1 victory. But everything unraveled for the Canucks early in the second when the Hawks scored twice within 36 seconds.

Luongo had little chance on either goal -- and the Canucks had none after they went in.

Troy Brouwer beat Kyle Wellwood into the high slot and chipped Patrick Sharp's pass past the goalie into the right corner of the net at two minutes. Thirty-six seconds later, Kevin Bieksa overskated the puck in the neutral zone, leaving it for Kris Versteeg, who started an odd-man rush into the zone. Instead of passing, Versteeg shot from the right circle into the wide open far side.

Just like that it was 2-0 and somewhere in the San Jose coach Todd McLellan started to breakout his book on the Blackhawks. Bolland, with some help from Pavol Demitra, made sure McLellan could spend the third period diligently flipping through his notes.

Demitra, playing the point on the Canucks' power play, turned the puck over as he attempted a pass to Kyle Wellwood. Bolland scooped it up and raced three-quarters of the way down the ice on a breakaway before putting the puck past Luongo.

"Wellwood went over to Demitra and Demitra tried to go back to Wellwood, but I just sort of got in front of it," Bolland explained. "When  I did it bounced off my stomach, I hit it forward and on I went."

Shane O'Brien beat Chicago goalie Antti Niemi from the right circle 3:44 into the third period, but Patrick Kane and Dustin Byfuglien scored 25 seconds apart to blow the game open -- and leave the Canucks frustrated.

"I don't think they're a better team than us," Luongo surprisingly said, "but maybe just a smarter team that knows how to win."

Niemi outplayed the Olympic gold medal winner, finishing with 29 saves while improving to 4-0 following a Chicago loss in the playoffs.

The Canucks were the Western Conference's best home team during the regular season. But the Hawks made themselves right at home, winning all three visits to GM Place in the series while scoring 17 goals.

"At home we were 1-5 against these guys over these two years. That's not good enough," Canucks center Henrik Sedin said. "During the season we were a heck of a team in this building. There's no reason we can't be in the playoffs.

"We've got a really deep lineup, but at home here, I don't know what has happened. Especially against Chicago, one win in two series' is not going to cut it."

Before Chicago started its onslaught, the Canucks were dealt a seriously bad blow when defenseman Alexander Edler was knocked out of the game. Byfuglien, all 6-feet-4 and 257 pounds of him, crushed Edler into the corner boards with 3:24 left in the first period.

The Canucks were already without concussed defenseman Willie Mitchell, out since January, and they were playing with fire by dressing Sami Salo, who was questionable after leaving Game 5 following a first-period injury to his midsection.

Losing Edler was something they couldn't afford -- and ultimately couldn't overcome.

"Sami, I guess, wasn't 100 percent and then losing Eddy kind of stung, but everyone's got bumps and bruises at this time of year and no one's 100 percent," O'Brien said. "You can't make excuses."

However, with Edler out the Hawks exerted their will in the second period. They won 3-0 on the scoreboard and outshot Vancouver by an 11-6 margin. They won 15 of 18 faceoffs and were credited with 11 hits as well as five blocked shots.

It was a staggering effort from a team that didn't play nearly as well or as hard in front of its own fans two nights ago.

"Our effort wasn't good enough in Game 5," Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "It's tough to win four games. You really have to battle those last couple of ones out. We didn't deserve to win that one at home, but we showed that we obviously did tonight."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

Shift of the game: With the Canucks on the power play in the final minute of the second period, Pavol Demitra turned the puck over at the point and Chicago center Dave Bolland pounced on it. Bolland raced the puck three-quarters of the way down the ice, ignoring the checking efforts of Demitra, before beating Roberto Luongo for a shorthanded goal at 19:15. It put the Blackhawks up 3-0 and was essentially the final dagger for Vancouver.

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