Chicago captain Jonathan Toews scored three power-play goals and added two assists as the Blackhawks beat the Vancouver Canucks 7-4 on Friday night and grabbed a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference semifinal series.
Toews took over the NHL playoff scoring lead with 18 points as Chicago moved within one win of their second straight trip to the Western Conference finals. The Blackhawks have won three straight after dropping the series opener at home.
Patrick Sharp also scored on the power play and Tomas Kopecky added a goal shortly after another penalty expired. Chicago went 4 for 8 with the man advantage.
Brent Seabrook opened the scoring 18 seconds in, Dave Bolland scored into an empty net with 37 seconds left, and Antti Niemi made 26 saves for the Blackhawks, who can advance with a win in Chicago on Sunday.
Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Kyle Wellwood and Alex Edler scored for the Canucks. Roberto Luongo made 27 saves, but Vancouver lost consecutive home games for the second time this season.
Toews and Dustin Byfuglien, who scored three goals in Game 3, set up Seabrook's goal on the first shift, and Byfuglien drew consecutive cross-checking penalties on defenseman Shane O'Brien. The 6-foot-4, 257-pound forward went straight to the net on the second, screening Luongo while Toews ripped a perfect shot past both of them 8 seconds after the penalty.
Toews, who had three assists in Game 3, added his second power-play goal 33 seconds into the middle period to give Chicago a 3-2 lead. A hard dump-in around the glass went off a Canucks stick on the sideboards and bounced straight to Toews. He went to the front of the net alone and redirected the puck past Luongo.
Sharp doubled the lead on a power play rebound scramble at 12:47, and the Canucks unraveled. Sedin was penalized for breaking his stick across Kris Versteeg after a whistle, and Alex Burrows cross-checked Byfuglien in the neck during a scramble. Toews converted the 5-on-3 advantage to make it 5-2 with 4:38 left in the period.
Edler scored on a power play with 1:44 left, but the Canucks couldn't take advantage of a lineup shake-up that paid off in a wild first period.
Vancouver sat out $4-million forward Pavol Demitra and fourth-line forward Rick Rypien, reinserting rookie speedster Michael Grabner, who scored in Game 1, and giving gritty forward Tanner Glass his first game of the second round. They also moved Alex Burrows up onto the struggling top line with Daniel and Henrik Sedin, and dropped Mikael Samuelsson, who had seven goals and 11 points in the first round but just one 5-on-3 goal in this series, to the third line.
After Seabrook opened the scoring 18 seconds in, Samuelsson set up the tying goal from behind the net just over a minute later.
Toews restored Chicago's lead midway through the period, but Burrows helped Sedin tied it again in the final seconds of consecutive power plays that included 38 seconds of 5-on-3 play. Toews scored again early in the second, and the Blackhawks never looked back.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Slowly but surely, the Chicago Blackhawks captain is taking control of this series. So is his team, which leads 3-1 heading into Sunday's Game 5, and can eliminate the Canucks from the 2010 playoffs with one more win. Toews was sitting on a big offensive game through the first three games, and he erupted in Game 4 for five points, including a hat trick. The Canadian Olympian scored all three goals from the slot, picking out weaknesses on Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo, his teammate at the 2010 Vancouver Games. Toews added two assists, and was a force on the penalty-killing unit. He set up the first goal, by Brent Seabrook, just 18 seconds into the game, when Luongo couldn't squeeze his pads tightly together, allowing the puck to trickle across the goal line.
The brutish Blackhawks forward was at it again, and had an enormous role in the victory - almost bigger than his 6-foot-4, 257-lb. body. Byfuglien wasn't netting a second consecutive hat trick - he finished with one assist - but he drew three penalties on the Canucks, including two cross-checking fouls on Shane O'Brien, which led to two Blackhawk goals. On one rebound, the Canucks were so concerned with Byfuglien's presence in front of the goal that Alexander Edler elbowed him, and Alexandre Burrows hit him in the face when he was lying on the ice. Burrows was sent off, creating a two-man advantage, and Chicago went up 5-2.
The Canucks did not practise what they preached. After admitting that they lost their cool in Game 3, the Canucks promised that they would not let Chicago rattle their tempers and brains again. Instead, undisciplined play ran rampant. Usual suspects such as O'Brien and Burrows were guilty of losing their composure, and for the second consecutive game, so did Daniel Sedin. O'Brien was assigned to Byfuglien, but was too enthusiastic and got benched after two early penalties. Burrows' cheap shot on Byfuglien really stung, and Sedin took two needless penalties, both of which led to goals.
Luongo was not sharp. Seabrook's opening goal - a real softie - spelled trouble, and while non of the following tallies were as glaring, a couple needed to be stopped. Luongo wasn't bumped, banged, pushed, elbowed and pitch-forked as much in Game 4, but the way he was playing, the Blackhawks didn't need to resort to ruffian tactics. At the other end, the Canucks broke another promise. Though they certainly had more bodies screening Antti Niemi, they didn't treat him as rudely as their pre-game build-up suggested, and they didn't intimidate him until late in the third period when Henrik Sedin collided with him behind the net. Niemi made 26 saves, same as Luongo. The Finnish rookie isn't stealing this series, but he doesn't have to.
The Canucks entered the game seeking to improve their punch-less power play, which had scored on just two of 14 attempts in the series. Mission accomplished. Vancouver got man-advantage goals from Daniel Sedin and Edler. But an old nemesis returned, and harkened the first round, when the Los Angeles Kings scored on six successive power plays. Chicago scored four power-plays goals, including three in the second period alone. A fifth goal was narrowly missed. Andrew Alberts stepped out of the box just seven seconds before Marian Hossa made it 6-3 early in the third.
With a report from Associated Press