CHICAGO – The Chicago Blackhawks are longing for the din of their home arena after two losses in Calgary tied the Western Conference quarter-finals at 2-2.
“Coming up empty is tough, but you move on,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said following the Flames’ 6-4 victory on Wednesday night. “Home-ice advantage should help us at the United Center.”
Both teams took a day off Thursday and will go back to practice Friday. The pivotal Game 5 is Saturday night at what should be a loud and rocking United Center, where the Blackhawks rallied for victories in the first two games.
“There’s no reason to get down on ourselves, we’re still in a good spot, so we’re going to be excited about playing in our own building,” Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said. “We just have to put these two games behind us.”
It could come down to the Hawks’ speed and skill against the experience and physical play of the Flames, with home ice obviously a major factor.
But Chicago also knows it needs to play cleaner on the defensive end. After scoring just four goals in the first two games, the Flames had 10 in the two games at the Pengrowth Saddledome.
“Our No. 1 focus has to be the good chances we’re giving up and the good shots from dangerous areas,” Toews said. “We’ll take that away and keep playing the way we are, we’ll get breaks and we just have to be smarter.
“Every time we give up a goal, it’s just a stupid little mistake and you kick yourself and say ‘Why did you do that?’ and we can learn from that.”
Chicago’s Cam Barker topped a puck he was trying to clear, setting up the first of two goals by Calgary’s Olli Jokinen that gave the Flames the lead in the second period Wednesday night.
Barker later redeemed himself with a goal as Chicago erased a 4-1 second-period deficit with three scores in an about an eight-minute stretch. That tied it headed into the final period.
But Calgary regained the lead and momentum on Eric Nystrom’s rebound goal in the fourth, and the Flames clinched it on an empty-netter by star Jarome Iginla.
“We came home and we did what we wanted to do,” Iginla told reporters after Wednesday night’s game. “But we know we’ve got to go in there and win the next game. That’s our goal. We know they’re going to be upset about what just happened.”
Chicago defenceman Brian Campbell said he’s confident his team will bounce back.
“We’re going to find a way,” he said.
“Playoffs are ups and downs, lots of ups and downs within the game, you can’t let those affect you. The team that doesn’t allow that to affect you probably plays a lot better.”
Calgary didn’t have left-wing Rene Bourque on Wednesday night after he apparently aggravated an ankle injury in Game 3. Craig Conroy had to leave the game with an injury and Daymond Langkow was hurt blocking a shot.
But the Flames, who were 0-4 in the regular season against the Blackhawks, feel they can go into the United Center and win. They had leads in both of the first two games and one of the losses came in overtime.
“I think we could be ahead in this series from the way we played,” Nystrom said. “It’s an 0-0 series now. … We’ve got some confidence now and we’re laying the body on them hard and we got to continue to do that.”