CHICAGO – Dustin Byfuglien has emerged as a force for the Chicago Blackhawks and now he is taking his game to the highest level. He and his teammates are headed to the Stanley Cup finals.
Byfuglien scored his third go-ahead goal of the Western Conference finals, converting on a third-period power play as Chicago rallied to beat the San Jose Sharks 4-2 on Sunday and complete a four-game sweep that sent the Blackhawks to the NHL finals for the first time since 1992.
“Seems like he likes the spotlight. He likes being the hero. He steps up in big time,” teammate Patrick Sharp said. “He told me before the third period he was going to be the guy to go get it.”
Chicago will play either Montreal or Philadelphia and be in search of its first NHL title since 1961, more than two decades before many of the current players were born.
“It’s an honor to be going to the Stanley Cup. We beat a very good team over there. It wasn’t easy,” Byfuglien said.
The 257-pound Byfuglien was parked in front of the net with 7 seconds left on the power play. He took a nice pass from Patrick Kane and knocked the puck past Evgeni Nabokov to give the Blackhawks a 3-2 lead at 14:05 of the final period.
“I got my stick open in front of the net, and Kaner game me a nice little feed,” Byfuglien said.
Kris Versteeg added an empty-net goal with 42 seconds left.
Byfuglien also had the game-winner Friday night in overtime as Chicago captured Game 3, 3-2. He also put the Blackhawks ahead to stay with a goal in their 2-1 victory in the opener.
It was another disappointing ending for the Sharks, who won the conference in the regular season by a point over the Blackhawks.
“There’s a level of frustration about the way we approached this whole series,” San Joe defenseman Rob Blake said.
Logan Couture scored in the first period and Patrick Marleau had a short-handed goal in the second as San Jose built a 2-0 lead.
But Brent Seabrook was credited with a goal after a video replay reversed an initial on-ice ruling of no goal. Dave Bolland tied the game at 2-2 at 18:38 of the second.