The Chicago Blackhawks moved within striking distance of the Stanley Cup as they beat the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday night to take a 3-2 lead in the series. As the fifth game, of the series of seven, ended with the score-line reading 7-4 in favor of Chicago, they seemed to have finally figured out how to get past Chris Pronger, the Philadelphia defender who had proven to be the biggest hurdle in the first four games.
The Chicago Blackhawks now is only one victory away from winning the Stanley Cup. With two games still to be played, it is a golden opportunity for them to end the N.H.L.’s 49-year long Cup drought.
Next game, the sixth in the series, is scheduled in Philadelphia on Wednesday. It will be a tough challenge for the Blackhawks to beat Flyers on its home ground, going by latter’s untainted record. If Flyers lose the sixth or the seventh game, it will be only the second team in the history of the game to lose consecutive six Stanley Cup finals. In that eventuality, they would share this ignominy with Maple Leafs during 1933-40. Obviously, stakes are very high for Philadelphia Flyers.
Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Dustin Byfuglien were Chicago’s heroes on Sunday night game in which six Blackhawks scored. Byfuglien scored twice, while paving way for two more. He played a key contribution of this games’ outcome, said Joel Quenneville, Blackhawks Coach. It was lucky for Chicago that these three finally found their form on this important occasion.
Pronger, the biggest stumbling block for the Flyers so far, was beaten again and again and reduced to insignificance. At the end of the game he finished at minus-5. Defending Pronger, Peter Laviolette, Flyers Coach said that it was not his fault. “We win as a team and lose, when we do, as a team too,” he said.
Brent Seabrook of Blackhawks scored first at 12:17 of the first period when his shot hit Pronger’s skate and went past Michael Leighton, Flyers goalie, resulting in a power play goal. Versteeg scored at 18:15, making it 3-0 at the end of the first period. Leighton, who defended impressively in the first period stopping 10 of 13 shots, was replaced by Brian Boucher at intermission.
Scott Hartnell scored for Flyers seconds after the second period began. Kane scored next for Blackhawks, followed by Byfuglien, Sharp and again Byfuglien late in the third period.
Taking the loss in his stride, Pronger vowed to come back in the next game. The team has two days to get over the loss and prepare for the next game, he said.
In spite of the win, Antti Niemi, Chicago goalie looked shaky for the most part of the game. In the third period, Danny Briere of Flyers was hit by what seemed to be a high stick from Duncan Keith, Blackhawks defender leaving him bleeding from the face. However, the double-minor penalty was not awarded.
The game was refereed by Bill McCreary and Dan O’Halloran.