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Blackhawks oust Canucks

THE Chicago Blackhawks roared into the Western Conference finals with a 7-5 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Monday, while the Washington Capitals forced a series decider against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the East.

Patrick Kane scored a hat-trick and Jonathan Toews netted twice as the Blackhawks took the best-of-seven series 4-2 to reach their first conference finals since 1995.

"Winning this series was like getting our first job after graduation," the 19-year-old Kane told reporters.

Chicago will meet the winner of the Detroit-Anaheim series for the right to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. The defending champion Red Wings lead the Ducks 3-2.

"They (the Blackhawks) are playing beyond their years with the amount of composure, intelligence and maturity they have displayed this playoff season," said Chicago General Manager Dale Tallon. "They're for real."

In Pittsburgh, Washington's David Steckel scored six minutes into overtime to level their Eastern Conference semifinal series at 3-3 and set up a tantalizing Game 7.

Viktor Kozlov had two goals and Alex Ovechkin three assists for the Capitals, who host the series decider today.

Steckel tipped a pass from Brooks Laich past Penguins netminder Marc-Andre Fleury for the winner.

"Matt (Bradley) made a great play on the wall to Brooksie (Laich)," Steckel told reporters.

"Like the other goals, it's about getting shots to the net and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. It's a great win, especially on the road," he said.

Washington netminder Simeon Varlamov made 38 saves, stopping 17-of-18 shots in the first period.

Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby sent the game into overtime with his 10th goal of the postseason.


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