For the fifth time in five games, the home team has won in the Stanley Cup Finals. Last night, it was again the Chicago Blackhawks, as they roughed up the Philadelphia Flyers pretty bad in a 7-4 victory, giving them a 3-2 series lead. The two teams will have Monday and Tuesday off, before reconvening for game 6, Wednesday night in Philadelphia.
Chicago won the first two games of the series at home in the United Center and then lost the next two games on the road at the Wachovia Center. The Flyers will be trying to duplicate what the Blackhawks did on Sunday night, as they once again face elimination. This season, the Flyers are 4-0 when the stakes are at their highest.
Will they be able to overcome their performance in game 5 and tie the series at 3-3? Maybe a bigger question is, “Who will be between the pipes for game 6?” Will it be Michael Leighton, who stepped in during the Boston series and played spectacular up until the Finals, or will it be Brian Boucher, who started the playoffs and was looking good before suffering a knee injury.
Leighton started game 5 and was looking good for the first 12:17 of the game, until Chicago’s Brent Seabrook scored a power-play goal, after Scott Hartnell took a high-sticking minor, a minute earlier.
Just over three minutes later, Dave Bolland scored, giving the Blackhawks a 2-0 lead. For Bolland, in was his second-consecutive game with a goal, giving him eight for the playoffs. The Blackhawks weren’t finished, as Kris Versteeg added another goal at 18:15 to make it a 3-0 Blackhawk lead.
Leighton ended the period, stopping 10 of 13 shots and wouldn’t make it to the second-period, being pulled in favor of Boucher. Boucher fared no better, allowing another three goals through the final two-periods. Boucher managed to stop a meager 11 of 14 shots in the final 40 minutes of the game.
The three first-period goals proved to be the difference in the game, as Philadelphia wasn’t able to keep up to the scoring pace of the Blackhawks. Every time a Flyer scored, a Blackhawk would match it, to ensure their three-goal lead held up.
Scott Hartnell started the scoring for the Flyers, just 32 seconds into the second-period, cutting the lead to 3-1, but it wouldn’t last as Patrick Kane ripped a shot past Boucher at 3:13, to put the Blackhawks back on top, 4-1.
A little over a minute later, Kimmo Timonen scored his first goal of the playoffs, giving the Flyers hope once again. The score would remain 4-2 Chicago, until Dustin Byfuglien tipped-in a power-play goal, once again putting the Blackhawks up by three goals, at 5-2.
The third-period started and ended just as the second-period did, with the exception of player names. Again, Philly scored first, when James van Riemsdyk got a shot past Antti Niemi 6:36 into the period. Riemsdyk’s goal brought the Flyers to within two goals again, at 5-3.
Patrick Sharp made sure that the Flyers wouldn’t get any closer as he scored at 16:08, increasing the lead to 6-3 and making a Flyers comeback nearly impossible. Simon Gagne did add another goal for the Flyers late, but it was too little too late.
Byfuglien added an empty-net goal with 2:05 left to play capping off a 7-4 victory for the Blackhawks and securing a 3-2 series lead.
The teams will have an extra day of rest between game 5 and game 6 and action will resume Wednesday night in Philadelphia, at the Wachovia Center.