CHICAGO – The Detroit Red Wings knew they'd see a desperate opponent on Saturday night. They got exactly what they expected.
The problem is they could only keep the score close for about half of the Chicago Blackhawks' 4-1 victory at United Center in Game 5 of a Western Conference Semifinal series that now shifts back to Detroit on Monday for Game 6 (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS2).
"They were better than us tonight," said Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard, who made 41 saves. "We knew it. We knew we were going to have to weather the storm early against them, and I thought we did that. We got going there, but they just kept coming and coming."
Chicago took an early lead on a goal by Bryan Bickell in the first period. After Danny Cleary tied it midway through the second period, the Blackhawks broke it open with back-to-back power-play goals to make it 3-1.
Detroit still lead the series 3-2, having beaten the Blackhawks twice at Joe Louis Arena, but the Red Wings are aware they'll face a mountain of momentum if the Blackhawks force a Game 7 on Wednesday in Chicago.
"We know what we've got to do and we don't want to come back here, that's for sure," Detroit defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said. "We've got a good chance at home at The Joe, and we're going to take it."
They'll again face a motivated, desperate Blackhawks team that looked a lot more like the bunch that won the Presidents' Trophy by a comfortable margin.
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews scored his first goal of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs to cap a power play and third-line center Andrew Shaw scored twice – once on the power play and again at even strength. The even-strength goal at 6:58 of the third period, set up by right wing Viktor Stalberg, also gave the Blackhawks' third forward group its first points of this series.
Chicago also stretched out Detroit's defense through the neutral zone better than it had in any of the previous three games. That's a big reason the Blackhawks finished with 45 shots on goal – reminiscent of the series opener, also a 4-1 victory.
The Red Wings need to change back to the way they played in Games 2, 3 and 4 of this series – all Detroit victories.
"We weren't good enough tonight at all as far as our plan and what we have to do to be successful," coach Mike Babcock said. "There was too much space and they were just free-wheeling around and having fun."
One advantage Babcock will have on Monday is getting the last line change, which will help in the matchup game. Chicago coach Joel Quenneville changed up his lines again prior to Game 5, putting three of his stars together as his top unit.
The strategy worked. Patrick Sharp, Toews and Patrick Kane responded with a great collective effort to dominate puck possession, combine for 13 shots (seven by Kane) and keep pressure on Howard for much of the game. The Red Wings did hold off the Blackhawks' initial charge, but their resistance faded quickly after the power-play goals in the second.
Now, it's all about Monday night in the Motor City.
"They're a good team," Cleary said. "Whoever thought this was going to end in five games is crazy. Maybe they thought Chicago [would win in five], but it's a series. It's ready to go Monday, it's a big game."
It's also a game the Red Wings feel confident they can win.
"It's up to us," Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "We can talk about momentum here or momentum there. It's up to the players to decide who has the momentum going into the game. We've been there before, been through this, so we just have to go out and play a good game."