Coming into Friday's Game 3 of the Western Conference finals, Blackhawks winger Dustin Byfuglien had never scored a playoff goal at the United Center. All nine of his career postseason tallies had come on the road.
But playoff goal No. 10 came on home ice and it also came at a great time for the Blackhawks. Byfuglien took a pass from Dave Bolland and put it past San Jose goalie Evgeni Nabokov at 12:24 of overtime Friday to give the Hawks a 3-2 victory.
With the win, the Blackhawks take a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 4 is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday at the United Center.
For Byfuglien, the goal represents a continuation of perhaps the best stretch of hockey in his career. The big winger has seven goals in his last seven playoff games and has scored the winner in two of the three games in this series.
A streak of excellence continued for two other Blackhawks as well Friday night.
Jonathan Toews notched two assists, extending his point streak to 12 consecutive games. The Hawk captain has seven goals and 18 assists for a total of 25 points in 15 playoff games. You know how they say your best players have to be your best players in the postseason? Well, Toews is the Hawks best player, and he's looked like it in these playoffs.
Goaltender Antti Niemi isn't too shabby either. Would the Hawks be in this position if Cristobal "Frenchy-Poo" Huet were still in net? Hell no! Niemi has faced 118 shots in three games, and he's stopped 113 of them. That's a .958 save percentage. Being a rookie, Niemi is a question mark in a lot of people's minds. People will continue to question him as long as the Hawks are still playing, but so far, so good.
The Hawks are in terrific shape in this series, but they've still got one more game to win. The Sharks did not go quietly in Game 3, tying the game with 4:23 left in regulation to force the overtime session. I don't expect them to go quietly in Game 4 either. The Hawks played well Friday. They'll have to play even better Sunday, because I expect San Jose to bring its 'A' game to the upcoming elimination contest.