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updated: 5/12/2014 12:31 AM

With a little will, Blackhawks find way

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  • Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell is flanked by teammates Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane after his second-period goal past Wild goalie Ilya Bryzgalov on Sunday night at the United Center.

       Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell is flanked by teammates Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane after his second-period goal past Wild goalie Ilya Bryzgalov on Sunday night at the United Center.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 

As the final seconds ticked off the clock for the first period Sunday night, the UC faithful displayed something considerably less than faith.

Blackhawks fans booed their team off the ice as they headed to the dressing room for the first intermission.

It was plenty loud enough for the players to hear -- and they earned it.

"I was frustrated. They were frustrated. We were frustrated," said Marian Hossa, whose effort is never in question. "We knew after the first period to just come in here between periods and relax. We knew how we needed to play, so just take a deep breath and play hard."

After a brutal effort in Game 4 and a weak 20 minutes to start Game 5, Hawks fans had every right to wonder if the defending Stanley Cup champs had anything left in the tank. They were getting outskated, outworked and outhit from one end to the other -- and where have we heard that before?

Yeah, it was the St. Louis series when the Hawks trailed 2-0 and were lucky to steal Game 3 before they found their confidence again.

But they did.

Now tied at 2-2 in the series and in Game 5 at 1-1 going into the third, Jonathan Toews' hard work in front of the net off a Hossa shot paid off with the go-ahead goal at 4:33, and the Hawks hung on by a thread to beat the Wild 2-1, with a chance in Minnesota on Tuesday to advance to the Western Conference finals.

"We never panic," said Michal Handzus. "We know we have the experience to go through it. We know what we need to do, and it's a matter of doing it on the ice. We know we didn't play as well as we liked, but we're confident."

Sometimes, the Hawks make it look so easy that even they forget nothing is simple this time of year. But it has become a hallmark of this championship team that they must put themselves in difficult situations before the players find their very best effort.

"I think in the second and third we were better," Hossa said, "and everybody's happy after the game."

If not happy, well, at least pleased to be back in front with two chances to finish off the Wild.

"Maybe we have another level, but I thought we played really well tonight," said Corey Crawford, who was very sharp in goal. "We got some bodies to the net and made it hard on their goalie tonight."

After grabbing a 2-0 series lead at home and dropping a pair in Minnesota, the Hawks regained the advantage in Game 5 at the UC on Sunday night, but it's not because they were the better team.

"We didn't play our best," Hossa said, "but we found a way to win the game. That's most important."

Minnesota has outplayed the Hawks in nearly every period in the series, but the Hawks at home have found a way to outscore the Wild 6-3 in the third period.

"It's a pretty cool series. Both teams playing pretty hard," said a relaxed and tired Crawford. "That was a good hockey game. I thought we played pretty consistently throughout the game. We got better in the tighter moments at the end."

They'll have a chance to close out the Wild in Minnesota on Tuesday, but it just wouldn't be the Hawks if they didn't have to scramble in a Game 7 to stay alive.

"We needed a big win. We got it," Crawford said. "Now we have a chance to finish the series off."

As the dressing rooms opened and media flocked toward the players, Andrew Shaw could be seen sneaking out a back door and nearly sprinting down the hallway and out of the building.

It was the fastest and most determined any Hawks player appeared Sunday night.

If he's ready to play in Game 6, it won't be a moment too soon.

brozner@dailyherald.com

• Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM.

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