By Rick Gano AP Sports Writer
CHICAGO — Big Buff got bumped from a struggling top line and responded with a performance that lifted the Chicago Blackhawks to within one win of the Stanley Cup.
Dustin Byfuglien scored two goals and had a pair of assists as Chicago beat the Philadelphia Flyers 7-4 Sunday night for a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 Stanley Cup finals.
The 257-pound Byfuglien, who had eight goals in the first three rounds of the playoffs but none in the first four games against a tough Flyers defense, had a power-play goal in the second period and added an empty-netter in the closing seconds.
“Getting down there two games in their building, we had to come back with some fire and get on them and show them we weren’t going to quit,” Byfuglien said.
Byfuglien’s top line that had included Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews was split up for Game 5, a strategy that worked for coach Joel Quenneville. They had combined for just one goal and four assists in the first four meetings with Philly. Kane also had a goal and an assist, and Toews added an assist Sunday.
Brent Seabrook added a power-play goal, and Dave Bolland, Kris Versteeg and Patrick Sharp also scored for the Blackhawks.
Chicago can capture the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1961 with a victory Wednesday night in Philadelphia in Game 6.
“We’re not going to think about that now. We have to keep level-headed and go into that building with the same mindset and have fun,” Versteeg said of Wednesday’s chance to wrap it up.
All five wins in the series have come on home ice.
Scott Hartnell, Kimmo Timonen, James van Riemsdyk and Simon Gagne scored for the Flyers. Gagne’s goal with 2:36 left made it 6-4, but a half-minute later Byfuglien converted the empty-netter.
“We got outworked pretty good,” Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said.
The Blackhawks blitzed goalie Michael Leighton with three goals in the final 7:43 of the first period, and the United Center erupted as Chicago found the offensive game that had helped it make the finals.
Leighton was pulled — for the second time in the series in favor of Brian Boucher — after giving up three goals on 13 shots in the first period.
“We weren’t very good in the first period,” Laviolette said, adding he didn’t know who would start in goal for Game 6.
Trailing 3-0, the Flyers wasted little time in getting one of the goals back as Ville Leino took the puck to side of the net and tried to stuff it in. But after hitting goalie Antti Niemi, the puck sat just off the line before Hartnell came in and knocked it home just 32 seconds into the period.
Kane, who had been with Byfuglien on a struggling Blackhawks first line that Quenneville split up, got his second goal of the finals on a nice pass from Andrew Ladd. Ladd had his shot blocked by Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger, recovered the puck and passed it to Kane, who beat Boucher for a 4-1 lead.
In the 20 previous Stanley Cup finals series tied 2-2, the club winning Game 5 has won the Stanley Cup 14 times. Last year, the Pittsburgh Penguins were one of the six teams to overcome a loss in Game 5 after the series had been knotted at 2-2. … Among the 22,305 in attendance was Michael Jordan, wearing a Toews jersey and waving a souvenir towel.