Blackhawks come out flying, convert on power play

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Michael Leighton sits next to Kimmo Timonen after Leighton was pulled at the start of the second period. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)

CHICAGO - The Chicago Blackhawks were determined to come out strong and get better special-teams play Sunday night. They did both.

With scrambled lines leading to names such as Byfuglien, Kane and Toews once again appearing on the scoresheet, the Blackhawks regained the form that led them to 112 points and a Western Conference championship.

Picking up where they left off in the last few minutes of Game 4, the Blackhawks dominated the first period of Game 5 against the Flyers. They seized a 3-0 lead through 20 minutes, helped by a 13-7 advantage in shots on goal, en route to a 7-4 victory and a three-games-to-two lead in the Stanley Cup Finals.

"We were rolling, we were having fun, and we were playing the way we wanted to," the Blackhawks' Kris Versteeg said.

After having a number of quality chances early, Chicago opened the scoring with its second power-play goal of the series. Versteeg, standing behind the net, passed the puck to defenseman Brent Seabrook, who put a shot past goalie Michael Leighton at 12 minutes, 17 seconds of the first.

That the puck deflected off Chris Pronger twice - between Versteeg and Seabrook and again on its way past Leighton - was a bonus for the Chicago fans, who have come to loathe Pronger the way they did Bill Laimbeer of the NBA's Detroit Pistons a generation ago.

Chicago's other successful power play deep in the second period was also a double thrill, as it was the first goal of the series for Dustin Byfuglien.

The 6-foot-4, 257-pound forward, who had scored eight goals in the playoffs, was standing just outside the crease when he knocked in a pass from Jonathan Toews.

It was a goal straight out of the textbook - every Chicago player on the ice touched the puck before Byfuglien put it past Brian Boucher.

"He brought so much energy," Versteeg said of Byfuglien. "He was moving his feet, and when he is moving his feet like that, he is a hard guy to play against."

Crashing the nets and causing havoc is a formula Chicago has used throughout its playoff run, and it paid off Sunday, as Dave Bolland scored Chicago's second goal when he bounced a puck off Leighton at 15:26 of the first.

"I thought we had good energy from the outset," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "It was the pace we were looking for the entire series."

"Our starts need to be a lot better," the Blackhawks' Patrick Sharp said before the game.

"I think we need to come out and push the pace. We need to use the crowd to our advantage with the energy in the building."

Byfuglien finished with two goals and two assists. Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, and Toews had one assist.

The Blackhawks took advantage of a much-improved performance on special teams.

Chicago's power-play goals were complemented by the Flyers going 0 for 3 Sunday, a far cry from scoring five goals with the man advantage in the first four games. The Flyers' best power-play chance came in the second period, when Mike Richards' point-blank shot was stopped by Chicago goaltender Antti Niemi.

After being frustrated by the two losses in Philadelphia, the Blackhawks stand one victory from their first Stanley Cup championship since 1961.

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