Blackhawks dominate in Game 5

STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:34 AM ET

CHICAGO — As he skated out in celebration, the first time as the first star in a Stanley Cup final series, Dustin Byfuglien lifted his stick above his head and waved it to the crowd, over and over, smiling widely.

And together the Second City, the newest retro Hockeytown, exhaled in unison.

It was a moment not to be forgotten. A seemingly maligned giant of a man returning to the playoffs in glory on a huge Sunday night for the Chicago Blackhawks. A huge night for a huge winger and once again the topsy turvy best-of-seven final is back in some kind of form.

The Blackhawks are where they expected to be — a win away from their first Stanley Cup in 49 years.

And it was more than symbolic that the previously inept Byfuglien came to play in Chicago’s 7-4 victory in Game 5, scoring twice, setting up two goals, making an impact with a game high nine hits — no one else had more than five — knocking Chris Pronger to the ice on at least two occasions, and leaving his signature on a series that many believed he would sign off on when it began.

Only it didn’t happen before Sunday night.

It didn’t happen through the first four games with Byfuglien missing in action.

It is not coincidental that Byfuglien’s best game of the final and Pronger’s worst game changed the emotional makeup of the series. Even when the Blackhawks were winning at home in Game 1 and 2, Pronger was still a huge factor and Byfuglien was nowhere to be found. Now a difference: The big man provided the kind of lift that could change the series.

“I guess,” said the forever sarcastic Pronger, “he’s well rested.”

Rested and dangerous. And now momentum swings to the Blackhawks, if momentum means anything.

“If I’ve learned anything in the playoffs, it’s that one game is only one game.” said Peter Laviolette, the Flyers coach. “There is usually not a carry-over affect. It’s one page of the story. Tonight it was their page.”

Their page with their largest, most imposing player finally taking a bite out of the Flyers. And don’t think the Chicago players don’t stand a little taller, skate a little faster, play with a little more bravery when Byfuglien is playing the role of intimidator instead of intimidated.

“He got rid of us and started performing,” Patrick Kane joked about the big guy. “He was a force tonight. He had some big hits. One on Pronger I think everybody remembers. It was great game overall for him. Good to see that.”

In fairness, the Blackhawks got started before Byfuglien did. The Hawks played their best period of the series in the first Sunday night, using their speed and puck skill to obliterate the Flyers. “We were outworked, outbattled,” Laviolette said. “That was the fastest they’ve been all series.”

That’s how it began. And then Byfuglien began to factor in the game and the Chicago defence jumped into the rush and the Blackhawks fans started calling penalties and the referees began missing penalties and before you knew it, it was time for Game 6.

“We haven’t done anything yet,” said Byfuglien, whose actions with the waving stick after the game indicated otherwise. “It wasn’t a big thing to celebrate.”

The Blackhawks were happy to welcome him to the Stanley Cup final, maybe just in time.

But as Laviolette says, the carry-over affect has been basically non existant in the series. Game 5 was the Blackhawks best game; Game 4 was the Flyers best game.

What happens Wednesday night for Game 6, with two days off, is anyone’s guess.

“We need him (in Philadelphia),” Duncan Keith said of Byfuglien. “This win, his play, gives us a lot of momentum.”

For now. And all that’s on the line Wednesday night is the Stanley Cup, a new piece of history and once again, the very survival of the Flyers.

steve.simmons@sunmedia.ca


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