Hawks beat Sharks 3-2 in OT, lead West Finals 3-0
Monday, 06.18.2012 / 10:39 PM
"Big Buff" came up big again for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Dustin Byfuglien scored at 12:24 of overtime Friday night to give the Hawks a 3-2 victory in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals against the San Jose Sharks for a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-7 series.
Brian Campbell made a great play at the blue line to hold the puck in the zone. The puck went behind the net to Dave Bolland, who found Byfuglien all alone in the slot for a quick one-timer that beat Evgeni Nabokov clearly.
"He laid it out in the slot, and all I had to do was finish," Byfuglien said after scoring his seventh of the playoffs -- but his first one at home.
Added captain Jonathan Toews, "Bolland made a great play at the end and Buff was in the right spot. He seems to find the open space lately. That's why he's scoring goals. He's going to the tough areas."
Antti Niemi had yet another brilliant game for the Hawks, stopping 44 of 46 shots. Nabokov was almost as good, making 35 saves.
The Hawks will go for the sweep Sunday afternoon in Chicago. They haven't won a Stanley Cup since 1961 -- the longest current drought in the League -- and haven't been to the Final since 1992, when they were swept by Pittsburgh.
Dave Bolland put the Blackhawks ahead 2-1 with 6:55 left in the third period with a breakaway goal, but Patrick Marleau
's second of the game and seventh of the playoffs with 4:23 remaining to force overtime.
It was a frustrating loss for Sharks coach Todd McLellan, who couldn't find much wrong with his team except the final score.
"I was really happy with the way our team played to a man, whether it was from goaltender, D man, forwards," he said. "We made a few mistakes. They scored some goals. I thought it was a helluva game.
"The reality is we're down 3‑0. Happened a week ago with two good teams playing and Philadelphia found a way to come back, so there's something to draw in there. Plus the fact that we've been in this series I think for every minute. That's got to leave us feeling good.
"But we know we're in a hole and we've got to dig our way out."
Marleau put the Sharks ahead 1-0 early in the second period with a 5-on-3 goal, but Patrick Sharp answered 3:01 later.
The Blackhawks nearly grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first 90 seconds when Dave Bolland glided out of the corner and snapped a shot that was stopped by Nabokov. As the rebound deflected just wide of the post, Bolland tripped over Nabokov and was hit with a goaltender interference penalty.
It appeared as though Joe Pavelski
put the Sharks on the board just 35 seconds into the power play when he tapped home the rebound of Marleau's shot. But replays showed Pavelski put the puck into the net with his right skate, and the goal was overturned. The Blackhawks killed the rest of Bolland's penalty to keep the game scoreless.
Chicago carried the play and had most of the best chances in the first period, but Nabokov, despite being shaky at times, held the fort.
John Madden let a long shot go from the left-wing wall that Nabokov stopped and appeared to smother, but Adam Burish dug the puck loose and centered it from behind the net and into the crease. However, Ben Eager couldn't get his stick down for what would have been a guaranteed goal thanks to the persistent backchecking of Scott Nichol
After a scoreless first period, Bolland took his second minor penalty of the game when he was called for holding Pavelski. Things got worse when Marian Hossa was called for hooking Pavelski 33 seconds later, giving the Sharks a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:27.
Marleau cashed in with two seconds remaining in the two-man advantage, ripping a rebound over a screened and down Niemi to put the Sharks ahead 1-0 at 3:58. It was the Sharks' fourth 5-on-3 goal of the postseason. They had just one in the regular season, tied for the lowest total in the League.
But Sharp responded with a power-play goal of his own 3:01 later, slamming home a cross-crease pass from Toews. It appeared that Sharp caught a bit of a break on the goal when his shot from in close hit off the skate of Nabokov as he was sliding to his right. The shot looked to be going wide, but instead banked into the net.
The assist by Toews gave him points in 12 straight playoff games, breaking the Blackhawks team record that had been held by Stan Mikita.
"I think it's a good feeling to be in company of a great player and a great person like Stan Mikita," Toews said of the streak, "especially when it's in the post‑season, when these games matter the most."
Hossa had a golden chance to put the Blackhawks ahead midway through the second period after Nabokov left a juicy rebound in front of the net. Hossa gathered the puck, drew it away from Nabokov, but was stopped by Sharks defenseman Rob Blake
, who dropped to his knees while in the crease to make the unofficial save.
Eager nearly put the Blackhawks ahead 2-1 within the first four minutes of the third period, but his shot rang off the post and caromed harmlessly away.
Niemi made his most important save with about 11 minutes left in the third period. The Sharks were buzzing in the Blackhawks zone with Thornton corralling the puck in the corner. He fed Devin Setoguchi
in the slot, but Niemi made the save on the one-timer.
Bolland looked to be the hero when picked up a blocked shot by Toews at the left point after taking his third penalty of the game and beat Nabokov on a breakaway, putting the Blackhawks ahead 2-1 with 6:55 left.
"He showed that he's more than just a defensive-minded center," coach Joel Quenneville said. "We know Bollie has got some offensive touch. It was a great goal, basically coming out of the box, and a great pass to Buff in overtime."
But Marleau's second of the game -- and just the Sharks' second even-strength goal of the series -- tied the game at 2-2 just 2:32 later. He lifted a rebound of a deflected shot over Niemi to put the celebration on hold. Marleau has the Sharks' last four goals.
Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DLozoNHL