After two consecutive losses for the first time in the postseason, no one could know for sure the Blackhawks would play their best game of the series.
But that's exactly what happened in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals.
Behind a relentless, swarming early attack the Hawks put themselves on the verge of their first Stanley Cup in 49 years with a 7 to 4 win to take a 3-2 series lead. Game 6 is in Philadelphia on Wednesday.
It was a slump-busting night for several Hawk stars. Patrick Kane was in mid-season form with the puck and Dustin Byfuglien littered the boxscore with 4 points, including his first two goals of the series -- the first of those goals came with his nemesis, Chris Pronger, in the box for hooking the shifty Kane on a spin-o-rama move. Without Pronger, Byfuglien had free reign in the slot for a power-play tap-in.
Kris Versteeg, Patrick Sharp, and Brent Seabrook, among others, had solid games as the Hawks came with their lunch pail. It wasn’t fluke calls that propelled them to 4 power plays to just 3 for the Flyers. They earned every one of them and cashed in on two of those chances. It’s the first time in the series the Hawks had more power-play attempts than Philadelphia.
As promised, Joel Quenneville didn’t wait for a slow start or to get behind to change the lines. He wanted to keep his top-line stars away from Pronger, and he did just that. He started the game with a whole new look, including reuniting Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. Kane skated with Sharp at center while Byfuglien was with centerman Dave Bolland.
Pronger had to pick his poison, and he mostly checked the Toews line early. It opened things up for Kane’s best game of the series.
The Hawks reversed the Game 4 first-period result with a three goal opening 20 minutes of their own, which established their flying attack. The Flyers formidable forecheck never had a chance; the Hawks' puck possession game tilted the ice towards, first, Michael Leighton, and then his replacement, Brian Boucher. The forwards were on their game.
An early second period goal by Philadelphia gave the Flyers life, but this time it was the Hawks who answered quickly with a Kane tally less than three minutes later. Again, another reversal from previous games when the Flyers scored quickly after Hawk tallies.
Home ice has held serve in the series and there is no reason to think it can’t again in Philadelphia. Still, if the Hawks play like they did in Game 5, that title might be just days away.