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Toews takes over as Blackhawks grab 3-1 series lead

by Dave Lozo / NHL.com
VANCOUVER -- Jonathan Toews did his best Johan Franzen impression on Friday night, and it moved the Chicago Blackhawks to within one victory of the Western Conference Finals.

The 22-year-old captain had three goals and two assists -- just one goal shy of what Franzen accomplished for the Red Wings on Thursday night against the Sharks -- as the Blackhawks scored four times on the power play to beat the Vancouver Canucks 7-4 and take a 3-1 lead in their Western Conference Semifinal series.

MORE COVERAGE: TOEWS GOES WILD

"It's one of those nights where you get some chances and you throw it on net and it happens to go in," said the overly humble Toews. "It's nice to get those breaks. You work hard, and don't always expect to get lucky like that."

It was the second hat trick in as many games for the Blackhawks. Two days prior, it was Dustin Byfuglien's crease-crashing performance that led to three goals and a victory in Game 3. Before Byfuglien and Toews, the Blackhawks hadn't had a road hat trick since Bobby Hull did it in 1972.

Toews' five-point night gives him a playoff-leading 18 points, one more than Franzen and Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby. The five points also tied a Blackhawks record for points in a playoff game, accomplished previously by Stan Mikita in 1973 and Steve Larmer in 1990.

Patrick Sharp added a goal and 3 assists for Chicago, which will look to wrap up this series at the United Center on Sunday night.

"I don't want to get too confident," Toews said. "They came back hard in the first period. Everyone knows that in a series, the fourth win is the toughest win to get."

The Blackhawks took advantage of the Canucks' lack of discipline for a second straight game. Shane O'Brien took two penalties in the first period on Byfuglien, one of which led to a Blackhawks goal. Daniel Sedin took two penalties in a span of 48 seconds of the second period. Both minors led to Blackhawks goals.

Are the Canucks getting rattled?

"I think so," Byfuglien said. "At least they're not just sitting back and letting us hit and bang them. At least they're fighting back. That's nice to see."

O'Brien expressed remorse for the two penalties.

"I wouldn't take two penalties in the first," O'Brien said. "Byfuglien pretty well knows where he's going out there and I wanted to make it a little harder for him. But that second one was a stupid one."

Roberto Luongo once again left a lot to be desired between the pipes for the Canucks. He stopped just 27 of 33 shots, and has now allowed 11 goals in the last two games.

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault didn't pull any punches when critiquing his goaltender's play in this series.

"I think right now he's the second-best goaltender on the ice," Vigneault said.

It took just 18 seconds for the Blackhawks to get on the board, and it was all started by Byfuglien, who carried the puck into the Canucks zone and behind the net. He dropped the puck to Toews, who fed a streaking Brent Seabrook for the one-timer goal through the legs of Luongo.

Kyle Wellwood got the Canucks even 1:16 later when a Mikael Samuelsson centering pass ricocheted off his backside and past Blackhawks goaltender Antti Niemi, who made 26 saves for his third straight win.

Byfuglien didn't get an assist on Toews' power-play goal at 9:23, but his big body in front of the net was once again a catalyst. His wrister to the stick side beat Luongo, who was unable to see around the 6-foot-4, 257-pound Byfuglien.

The revamped Canucks power play evened the score at 2-2. Alexandre Burrows, who rarely sees time with the man advantage, drove the net and forced Niemi to make a tough save on a good backhand shot. Daniel Sedin followed the play and chipped the rebound past Niemi to cap the scoring in a fast-paced first period.

The Blackhawks put the game away with three straight goals in the second period. Toews scored twice, sandwiching his goals around Sharp's power-play goal. The Blackhawks went 4-for-8 on the power play Friday, shelling a Canucks' penalty-killing unit that has allowed 17 goals on 48 chances during these playoffs.

Canucks forward Ryan Johnson, who was on the ice for three of the Blackhawks' power-play goals, said the best way to kill penalties is to avoid taking them.

"Your best penalty kill is discipline," Johnson said. "To not put yourselves in that situation. You continue to give guys like that opportunities time and time again. ... You give them two or three opportunities at most throughout the game, I like our chances."

The Blackhawks have to like their chances, too. They now have three opportunities to close out the Canucks for the second year in a row, and two of those three games are scheduled for the United Center.

"You've got a lot of momentum, so we want to go home and take advantage of it," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "We've got to be smart, we've got to be disciplined. We should be excited about being back home."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DLozoNHL



Shift of the game: Dustin Byfuglien made his presence felt in front of the net once again for the Blackhawks, but especially so on Patrick Sharp's power-play goal in the second period. Byfuglien parked himself in front of Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo and would not be moved. Jonathan Toews used Byfuglien's screen to let a long wrister go that Luongo stopped. But he couldn't control the rebound thanks to Byfuglien's presence. With the Canucks' defense collapsing on Byfuglien, Sharp moved in and put the rebound home to make it 4-2 Blackhawks.






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