Blackhawks fight to live another day
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Jonathan Toews (19), right, celebrates with teammates after they defeated the Detroit Red Wings 4-1 in Game 5 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Western Conference semifinals in Chicago, Saturday, May 25, 2013.
In the elevator ride to the basement from the UC press box late Saturday night, several Detroit executives could hear the Blackhawks' radio broadcast loud and clear from the speakers in the tiny box.
And after Troy Murray yelled excitedly into his microphone, "I gotta feeling we're gonna be back here Wednesday," Red Wings exec Chris Chelios muttered, "Me, too."
That would mean a Game 7 back here in Chicago — and that's all the Hawks can ask for right now.
"We said we needed to match their desperation because we knew they would play desperate, but we didn't do that," said Detroit defenseman Jonathan Ericsson. "Now we have to make sure we do it in Game 6. We don't want to come back here at all."
It took seven days and seven hours for something good to happen for the Hawks, and then a lot of good happened.
Bryan Bickell scored on a rebound 14 minutes into the game, giving the Hawks their first lead since the first period of Game 2, and the home team actually scored a pair of power-play goals as the Hawks kept their season alive with a 4-1 victory Saturday night at the UC.
"Momentum goes a long way in this game," Bickell said. "It was great to see 22,000 on their feet, making noise. The first goal was huge."
For the last couple games, both of which the Hawks lost in Detroit, it felt like the Hawks just needed a break or bounce to gain a little confidence and get back on a roll.
It happened 13 minutes into the second period when Pavel Datsyuk broke his stick while killing a penalty, essentially giving the Hawks a 5-on-3. After playing catch with Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith used the open ice to fire a puck at the net.
Andrew Shaw tipped it in for a 2-1 lead and the Hawks finally exhaled, never looking back the rest of the night.
"We played awesome," said goaltender Corey Crawford, who continued his strong play Saturday. "We kept the same game as the last two, but we said we needed to create a break or a bounce to go our way.
"You can't just think that because you're working hard that it's gonna go your way. You have to make it go your way. That was what we talked about in here."
Well, the Hawks made their own breaks and got their own bounces and all kinds of good happened. The Hawks rolled and now they know a Game 6 win in Detroit on Monday forces a Game 7 back in Chicago on Wednesday.
That's how quickly a series can change, how fast momentum can shift. But you're only as good as your next shift, and the Hawks are guaranteed nothing more right now than 60 more minutes of hockey.
"We have to have the same mindset," said Keith. "We have to have a good start and go from there, capitalize on chances and keep working hard."
It was as good a game as the Hawks have played since their season-opening point streak. They hit from the outset, pounding the Detroit defense, they dominated from start to finish, put doubt in the Red Wings' minds and even Jonathan Toews scored his first goal of the playoffs.
Said Bickell to Toews in the dressing room, "It's nice to see you smile."
Said Toews in response, "It's nice to smile for a change."
The relief in Toews' celebration could be felt from the 22,014 in attendance through the bench and into the postgame.
"It's great to see him rewarded for all his hard work," Crawford said. "He goes to the net hard all the time and he deserved it."
The Hawks looked like the best team in the league again for the first time in a long time, and they have planted the seeds of doubt in Detroit.
"We want to keep this feeling we have right now," Crawford said. "The feeling of working hard and getting results is a good feeling, but we know it does not come easy."
Crawford couldn't be more correct. The Hawks must remember that this time of year in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the best team doesn't always win and nothing comes easy.
If the Hawks can maintain that attitude Monday night, they'll be back here Wednesday.
For Game 7.
•Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM, and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.
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