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Unexpectedly quiet night for Blackhawks, fans

CHICAGO -- Several Blackhawks players talked about wanting to end this Western Conference Semifinal series on Sunday night just so they didn't have to climb aboard the team's charter plane again on Monday for a four-hour flight back to Vancouver.

 

Well, suffice it to say they're a little grumpy after a disappointing 4-1 loss in Game 5, which left the Hawks up 3-2 in the series as it shifts back to GM Place on Tuesday night.

 

In almost a mirror image of the Canucks' Game 1 win, Vancouver made the Hawks look like they still had a bad case of jet lag. Chicago came into the game with a perfect record dating back to last season in games in which it could eliminate an opponent.

 

Now that's toast. Now they must reboard their aircraft and reload their attack.

 

"We've got to be way better than today, across the board," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "All aspects of our game have to be sharper, crisper and … simpler. Everybody's got to be better."

 

Thanks to the Canucks, who exercised more discipline than they showed in Vancouver, the packed United Center went quiet for most of the game after the infamous cheering-fueled Chicago rendition of the "Star-Spangled Banner" got the place rocking.

 

First-period goals by Canucks defensemen Christian Ehrhoff and Kevin Bieksa tamed Hawks fans early the same way that two quick goals in Game 1 hushed the building and left CBC analyst Don Cherry's suit coat as the loudest thing on Madison Ave.

 

"We just didn't play our best game," Hawks defenseman Brian Campbell said. "We didn't come close to finding ways to win tonight. We knew what was at stake. We talked about it after the last game in Vancouver on the plane ride, and we definitely didn't have it."

 

Worse yet, the Canucks flipped the script on the Hawks, who were suddenly the ones straying from their game plan. Dustin Byfuglien's first of two second-period penalties (for slashing and unsportsmanlike conduct) led to Bieksa's second goal of the night that made it 3-0.

 

Then, with 7:05 left in the third period, Marian Hossa was called for high-sticking off the faceoff following Jonathan Toews' fourth goal of the series -- effectively killing any spark. In all, the Hawks were whistled for seven penalties, with five for stick violations.

 

Toews said the Hawks didn't necessarily lose their composure, but also didn't play the way they needed to close out the fired-up Canucks.

 

"The couple of stick penalties that we had didn't have anything to do with our composure," he said. "We've just got to move our feet, be smarter and know they're going to call those little things. We gave them the opportunities to get up 3-0, and in a do-or-die game like this they're not going to let you come back, waltz through the offensive zone and find your way back in the game."

 

In Game 4, it was Vancouver that came unglued and had a parade to the penalty box. Despite being called for five penalties on Sunday, none were as ill-timed as those in the previous game. The Canucks did exactly as center Ryan Kesler had hoped after the morning skate.

 

"We can't have any selfish guys in here tonight," he said. "We have to stick to our game plan. We have to take a punch to the face. We have to take a spear. We have to take a hit to make a play. If we can do that, I like our chances."

 

After the Canucks did all those things, it was easy to see why.