VANCOUVER — Some costly mistakes quickly ended the Vancouver Canucks’ season Tuesday and sent the Chicago Blackhawks onto the NHL Western Conference final.
The Hawks turned a bad decision and a giveaway into goals 36 seconds apart early in the second period. Chicago then broke the Canucks back with a shorthanded goal with just 45 seconds left in the period for a 5-1 victory.
Chicago did everything the Canucks couldn’t to win the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal 4-2. They played with passion, made smart plays and managed to turn Vancouver errors into goals.
“We were patient when we needed to be and we kept moving our feet and weren’t lazy in any of those three periods,” said Chicago captain Jonathan Toews, who had one assist to extend his playoff points streak to nine games (six goals, 13 assists).
“I think we’ve got enough legs and enough speed to outlast that team.”
The game followed a familiar script for the Canucks, who witnessed another disappointing end to a season. Vancouver has lost in the second round of the playoffs three times in the last four years.
“I don’t think they’re a better team than us, but maybe a smarter team,” said Canuck goaltender Roberto Luongo.
A bad pinch by Canuck defenceman Shane O’Brien resulted in Troy Brouwer opening the scoring just two minutes into the second period. Just over half a minute later Kris Versteeg jumped on a Kevin Bieksa turnover and made it 2-0.
Dave Bolland stuck the fork in with a shorthanded goal with just 45 seconds left in the period.
“Those two goals were pretty valuable,” said Brouwer, who sat out three games as a healthy scratch. “It swung a bit of momentum our way.
“Our biggest goal was the shorthanded goal. You never want to give up a goal in the last minute of a period.”
The Hawks knew the Canucks were on the ropes and waited for Vancouver to make more mistakes.
Patrick Kane, on a breakaway, and Dustin Byfuglien, who had kicked sand in the Canucks’ face all series, scored for the Hawks in the third period.
“Once we got those two goals, teams try and create a little bit more than they should,” said Brouwer. “We were able to capitalize on a couple of them.
“It was maybe them trying a little too much. We were trying to sit back, be patient and focus on turnovers and get our chances that way.”
The Canucks forced a Game 6 by beating the Blackhawks 4-1 in Chicago on Sunday.
Bolland said the Hawks didn’t want to return home for a Game 7.
The Blackhawks flew to Vancouver packed so they could travel on to San Jose where they will play the Sharks in the Western Conference final.
“We came out with more of an edge,” said Bolland. “We played a lot harder. We knew we didn’t want to go back home. We wanted to finish it off here.”
The victory came one year to the day after Chicago beat Vancouver 7-5 in Game 6 to win the 2009 Western Conference semifinal.
O’Brien scored in the third period for the Hawks. His goal came moments after Bieksa had hit the cross-bar.
Vancouver, which won 30 games at home during the regular season, were outscored 17-7 by Chicago and lost all three games played at GM Place during the series.
Luongo was left searching for answers in a quiet Vancouver dressing room.
“It’s disappointing to be out again against these guys,” said the Canuck captain, who stopped 30 shots. “We just didn’t get the job done at home.
“I don’t know why we played the way we did. I don’t know if we just assumed it was going to happen here at home tonight. It could have easily been 2-0 or 3-0 in the first period.”
Any life Vancouver had after O’Brien’s goal was sucked away when Kane and Byfuglien scored 25 seconds apart in the third. That sent many in the crowd of 18,810 heading for the exits.
“We haven’t been scoring and we’ve been falling apart pretty much,” said Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin, who had just one goal and an assist in the Chicago series.
“We tried to stick with it but we lost against a better team. That’s the bottom line.”
The Canuck chances were bruised late in the first period when defenceman Alexander Edler left the game after being driven into the boards by Byfuglien.
There were some anxious moments in the second period when Canuck defenceman Christian Ehrhoff ran into Luongo, causing the goaltender to fall and bash his head on a goal post. Luongo remained on the ice for several minutes, but stayed in the game.
Vancouver defenceman Sami Salo surprised many by playing. He was taken to hospital Sunday after being hit in the groin by a Duncan Keith slapshot.
The game was scoreless after the first period. It was the first time all series neither team managed a goal in the opening 20 minutes.
NOTES: For the second game in a row the Canucks did not wear helmets in the warmup. ...Teams trailing 3-1 in a best-of-seven series have come back to win 22 times during NHL history. The Canucks have done it three times, most recently in 2003 against St. Louis. .... Bieksa’s two goals in Game 5 was the first time a Vancouver defenceman scored twice in a playoff game since Jeff Brown in Game 6 of the 1994 Stanley Cup final.