Vancouver, BC- Kris Versteeg started the scoring early and Dustin Byfuglien kept it going, and going, and going. The combo, along with goalie Antti Niemi, helped lead the Chicago Blackhawks to a 5-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday in Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinals.
The win pulled the Blackhawks ahead 2-1 in the best of seven series. Game 4 is slated for Friday in Vancouver at 8:30 p.m. CDT.
A game after netting a potential series-changing game-winning goal late in the third period, Versteeg added his second goal of the series 5:19 into Game 3. Then Byfuglien stretched the lead to 2-0 with his first of three lamp lighters on the night when he banged home a power-play tally at 16:47 of the opening period.
The 2-0 lead for Chicago marked a turnaround from the first two games in the Western Conference Semifinals as they were the ones fighting from behind by the same deficit. Niemi helped hold up the lead making some key point blank saves in the opening frame on Wednesday, including a couple of one-on-one chances from Jannik Hansen and Daniel Sedin. The Finnish backstop turned away 31 Canucks shots on the night.
Byfuglien added his second goal 11:24 into the second period on the power play, just over two minutes after Hansen put the Canucks on the board. The former IceHogs’ winger completed his first career playoff hat trick in the third period when he was credited with knocking the puck past Roberto Luongo at 13:58, giving Chicago a three-goal cushion.
A lot was made of Hawks head coach Joel Quenneville’s decision to move Byfuglien back to forward for this series to disrupt Luongo in front of the Canucks net. That decision paid off in Game 3 with all three of Byfuglien’s goals came from right out front of the Vancouver goal.
Chicago was winning the battles in front of Luongo on Wednesday night as all five of the Blackhawks goals were tallied from up close on the Canucks All-Star goalie.