Blackhawks move to cusp of Cup
By JAY COHEN
CHICAGO — It’s all so very familiar. Big goals from Patrick Kane. Solid all-around play from Jonathan Toews. A goaltender stepping forward at the right time.
The Chicago Blackhawks have that look again, and another Stanley Cup is within reach.
Kane scored two goals, Corey Crawford made 24 saves and the Blackhawks beat the Boston Bruins 3-1 on Saturday night to move within one victory of their second championship in four years.
“This is what you work for all year, all summer, when you’re training throughout the year, at training camp, whatever it may be,” Kane said. “This is what you work for, this opportunity. We’ve got to seize the moment and take advantage of it.”
Kane had a terrific postseason when Blackhawks won it all in 2010, including the winning score in a 4-3 overtime victory in Philadelphia that secured Chicago’s first title in 49 years. Now he’s picking up steam with the Blackhawks set to play for another Cup on Monday night in Boston, collecting seven goals in the last seven games.
Dave Bolland added an empty-net score, Toews had two assists and Bryan Bickell was credited with a team-high six hits and an assist. Toews also won nine of his 12 faceoffs before leaving with an upper-body injury.
“We’re hopeful he’ll be ready next game,” said coach Joel Quenneville, providing the usual vague description of injuries that’s so common in the NHL playoffs.
The Bruins also lost one of their key players when Patrice Bergeron was hurt in the second. It was unclear what happened to the star center, but the team said he was taken to a hospital for observation.
“Getting evaluated right now,” coach Claude Julien said. “Not much I can say.”
Zdeno Chara scored in the third period for the Bruins, who lost consecutive games for the first time since the first round against Toronto. Tuukka Rask made 29 saves, keeping the Bruins close while they scrambled to generate quality chances.
“We just ran out of time,” Rask said.
Chara got a nice pass from David Krejci from behind the net and beat Crawford on the glove side to make it 2-1 at 3:40 in the third period. The whistling slap shot by the big defenseman came after he was on the ice for five of Chicago’s goals in the Blackhawks’ 6-5 overtime victory Wednesday night.
The location of Chara’s third postseason goal brought to mind the glove-side difficulties for Crawford in Game 4. But he held up just fine coming off the worst postseason game of his career.
“I think it was a big effort by everyone to come back, play defensively, block shots, sacrifice our bodies to block those pucks and quickly get on to offense,” he said.
Crawford gloved Daniel Paille’s slap shot early in the third, and the Blackhawks helped their embattled goaltender by turning up the pressure on Rask after the Bruins cut it to one. Kane forced Rask to make a couple of nice stops, and Michael Frolik also made a run to the net.
The Blackhawks survived one last push by the Bruins after they pulled Rask, and the crowd of 22,274 roared when the overhead videoboard showed the No. 1 and the Stanley Cup on the screen, signifying the team is one victory away from its fifth title.
“We understand the situation and what’s at stake, but our mindset is going in there and trying to have the best game possible,” defenseman Duncan Keith said. “It’s no different from tonight’s game.”
Not so for Boston.
“It’s do or die,” Julien said. “We’ve been there before, and we’ve done well in that situation.”
Boston and Chicago returned to the ice three days after they played the highest-scoring game in this year’s NHL playoffs. There were five goals in the second period alone, matching the total from the previous two games combined, and Brent Seabrook’s overtime score lifted the Blackhawks to the series-tying victory.
It was a marked departure from the first three games of the finals, and raised questions about what the play would be like in the last part of the series. The answer, at least in Game 5, was a return to the strong team defense and disciplined play. It meant little room to maneuver in both offensive zones, especially for the series’ biggest stars — except Kane.
“Guys that have that kind of innate skill of scoring and being a top player, they anticipate like the rest of us would like to,” Quenneville said.
With 2½ minutes left in the first, Johnny Oduya’s long slap shot broke the stick of Boston defenseman Dennis Seidenberg and trickled to the left side of the net where Kane poked it in for eighth playoff goal.
The line of Kane, Toews and Bryan Bickell, which Quenneville put back together before Game 4, struck again in the second. Bickell was stopped by Rask on a rush along the left side, but skated behind the net and threw it back in front.
The puck went off the right side of the goal as Rask got his blocker to the post. Kane then deftly backhanded the bouncing puck into the top of the net to make it 2-0 at 5:13.
“You’re not going to get those chances often, so it was good to bury them,” he said.
That proved to be enough for Crawford, who has allowed one goal or less in nine games this postseason. But this one had to be particularly satisfying after facing a barrage of questions about his glove over the past two days.
“I have a job to do,” said Crawford, who watched from the stands when the Blackhawks won it all in 2010. “Whatever is being said doesn’t really affect what I’m going to do on the ice.”
Since the NHL went to a best-of-seven format for the Stanley Cup in 1939, the winner of Game 5 in a deadlocked series has gone on to win the title 15 times in 22 occasions.
Those numbers likely don’t scare Boston very much. The Bruins faced the same situation against Vancouver in 2011 and came back to win the championship.
“We’re going to fight,” center David Krejci said. “We’re going to fight with everything we have and force Game 7.”
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