CHICAGO – The Chicago Blackhawks played with more desperation than the Red Wings did Saturday night at the United Center, because they had to. And it showed.
Down three games to one in their best-of-seven series, and facing elimination before their home crowd in the Western Conference semifinals, the Blackhawks lived to see another day with a convincing 4-1 victory over Detroit.
The ’Hawks fired 45 shots – their highest shot total of the series – and jumped started their slumping power play behind their big guns, including captain Jonathan Toews, who entered Saturday’s game without having scored a goal in the playoffs.
Simply put, “We weren’t good enough at all tonight,” Wings coach Mike Babcock declared in his post-game news conference. “I thought we were tentative at the start. We should be comfortable. We were ahead. Let’s get out there and play and I don’t think we did that. I don’t think we were on our toes today at all. I thought we were on our heels for most of it except for the first 10 minutes of the second I thought we got playing a little bit.”
The Blackhawks made an adjustment prior to Game 5, switching their top forward lines around, as Toews and Michal Handzus traded places at center. The move paid off as it freed Toews from the smothering shadow of Red Wings center Henrik Zetterberg, who has frustrated the Blackhawks’ captain throughout the series. The move also reunited the Blackhawks’ top scorers from the regular season: Toews and Patrick Kane.
Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard stopped the first Toews/Kane threat when he sealed off the bottom half of the net, making a pad save on Patrick Sharp’s laser from the left wing in the first minute of the game. However, that was just the beginning of a multitude of waves that continued to roll into the Red Wings’ zone for the rest of the night.
Despite the Wings’ inefficiencies, the score was tied as the teams entered the last half of the second period, but that’s when the Blackhawks took advantage of a couple man-advantages.
“I think in the second period we played more of our game, then we got into penalty trouble, and their power play got two quick ones there,” defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo said. “In the third period we tried to open it up a little bit, but we just got into more of a back and forth game, something that we don’t want to get ourselves into with a team like this.”
Ultimately though, it was the Blackhawks’ power play in the second period that did in the Red Wings. Toews scored his first goal in the playoffs and Chicago managed to get its second and third power-play goals of the series.
The Blackhawks prevented the Wings from clearing the zone on both goals. The first power-play goal scored by Andrew Shaw, who scored twice Saturday, put Chicago up 2-1 at 13:08 of the second. The goal was made possible by Marian Hossa, who stopped a Jonathan Ericsson clearing attempt, and Shaw tipped in a Duncan Keith shot from the point.
A few minutes later, with Drew Miller in the penalty box, the Red Wings had difficulty clearing the zone again. This time, Patrick Eaves’ attempt to clear was stopped by Keith at the blue line, and passed to Hossa, who spotted Toews below the right circle. From there, Toews had plenty of time to assess his situation on the power play. As Howard dropped to his knees to seal off the lower half, it only gave Toews one option: shoot high, which he did, cranking a shot that caromed in off of Howard’s left shoulder then mask. The goal gave the Blackhawks a two-goal lead late in the second. It was also Toews’ first goal of the playoffs.
“We got going pretty good in the second period and then we took the penalties,” Babcock said. “On their first power play they got nothing in the first and then Pavel lost his stick on the second one and we never got the puck out of the zone and they score on that one. They had another power play and we had a guy fall down and had another guy try to do his job instead of just being a little poised.
“At that point the game was over. They had the puck the rest of the night and we didn’t do anything.”
Chicago had 19 more shots on goal in the game than the Red Wings, including a 17-4 edge in the third period.
The series now returns to Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena for Game 6, which is set for Monday at 8 p.m. EDT.
“We know what we’ve got to do and we don’t want to come back here, that’s for sure,” Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said. “So, we’ve got a good chance at home at The Joe and we’re going to take it.”
DECLINED: Colaiacovo made a great defensive play to deny Andrew Shaw of a scoring chance late in the first period, but the Wings’ defenseman paid for it moments later.
As the Blackhawks’ big, lumbering forward made his way down the left wing, Colaiacovo stretched out to cut off the passing lane through the slot. In doing so, the Wings’ defenseman also under cut Shaw like a pulling guard in football. As the play continued, Shaw sought retribution in front of the Wings’ net, where he cross-checked Colaiacovo. The two exchanged pleasantries before Colaiacovo flipped the 5-foot-10 Shaw, earning the defenseman a minor penalty at 17:50.
“It was a battle in front of the net,” Colaiacovo said. “I think he embellished it a little bit. He was doing his thing, trying to draw a penalty. He was holding my stick and holding me, and I ended up getting called for holding. It is what it is. Just trying to make a play there. Those are the areas that we have to win in front of our net, and those are the battled that you’re going to have.”
The Wings killed off Colaiacovo’s penalty, the 12th straight ’Hawks’ power play that Detroit killed in this series. Unfortunately, the Blackhawks got their power play going when Shaw and Toews scored second-period goals on the man-advantage to take a 3-1 lead.
NO GOAL: Toews thought he had given the Blackhawks a 2-0 lead early in the second period, but referee Stephen Walkom waved off the play though replay appeared to show the popped over Howard’s right pad and crossed the goal line.
Moments later, Daniel Cleary tied the game at 1-1 with his fourth goal of the playoffs and his second of the series when he banged home a rebound at 9:37 of the second.
With the teams playing 4-on-4, Cleary and Zetterberg had time in space to operate as they raced into the Blackhawks’ zone. Zetterberg fired the initial shot that was kicked out by Crawford, but the puck went directly to Cleary to the left of the net, where he popped a shot into the net off of Crawford’s skate blade.
THREE STARS: 3, Duncan Keith, CHI (2 assists); 2, Jonathan Toews, CHI (1 goal); Andrew Shaw, CHI (2 goals).
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose
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