VANCOUVER, B.C. -- Chicago's hibernating buffalo woke up, and now it's a question of whether the Vancouver Canucks can heed their alarm and stay awake for the rest of their second-round series.
Dustin Byfuglien's first three goals of the playoffs gave the Blackhawks a convincing 5-2 victory over Vancouver on Wednesday night after the Canucks had been almost invincible at home in the first round. Now, the Blackhawks have moved up a notch from where they were last year -- when they trailed 2-1 -- and enjoy a 2-1 cushion in this series.
In Friday's fourth game, also slated for General Motors Place, the Canucks will have to find a way to deny Byfuglien's bread and butter move -- literally being a thorn in goaltender Roberto Luongo's side. They could not stop him last year, and it's starting to look like they will fail again after coach Joel Quenneville put the player affectionately known as Buff on his top line alongside Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
"It's been a while since I had a goal," said Byfuglien, who had played defence at times earlier in the playoffs and in the regular season. "The game was going well and I was excited."
The Minneapolis native made good on predictions that he would emerge as an unsung hero in the post-season. He did not just shine. He produced the game of his life.
"Sometimes it happens to a guy," he said. "Everyone has been working hard. I have been trying to work hard myself. It finally paid off."
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault was impressed by Byfuglien's dominating performance. But he said his squad will have to do a better job in steering away the 257-pound forward from the front of the net -- even if it appears to be a gargantuan task at the moment.
"He played a real strong game and obviously he did a real good job in front of our net," said Vigneault. "We're going to have to do a better job of protecting the front of our net and at the same time we know what's being allowed and permitted on the ice in front of the nets and we have to do the same thing. If we do that we'll probably score more goals."
If the Canucks want to stop Byfuglien, they will have to maintain their composure. Following their morning skate, defenceman Shane O'Brien and others talked about giving the Blackhawks the silent treatment -- but they failed, miserably.
With the frustration level mounting, the Canucks took several unnecessary and costly penalties, including a 10-minute misconduct penalty on O'Brien and an unsportsmanlike call on Alex Burrows that led to Byfuglien's second goal of the game.
In the end, nobody could stay silent about Byfuglien, including Luongo, who clamored in protest to officials after being brushed by the winger on several plays.
"(Byfuglien) did an unbelievable job tonight," said Chicago sniper Marian Hossa. "He was in the middle of everything and after the first goal he got lots of confidence, you could tell. He's dominating in the corners, in the physical department and I think he was frustrating their team. He was flying tonight."
Vigneault says his squad will try to mirror Chicago's effort in the blue paint for Game 4. In other words, you can probably expect Friday's game to get more physical -- and it probably better. Last year, the Canucks squandered a 2-1 series lead and lost three straight as Chicago outmuscled and outhustled the overmatched Canucks.
This year, Vancouver's position is more precarious as they try to fight back in the series. And, no doubt, Dustin Byfuglien will try to make it more difficult.