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Blackhawks face elimination game with confidence

Joel Quenneville defends Bryan Bickell after Game 5 gaffe.

Their inspiration now is born of desperation.

The Blackhawks find themselves in a win-at-home-and-on-the-road-or-go-home position in the Western Conference finals.

"We've got to play desperate right off the bat," Brandon Saad said. "Now we're in a situation where it's do or die."

How they landed here, down 3-2 to the Ducks, with Game 6 and possibly their last playoff breath looming Wednesday night at the United Center, can't be pinned on one play of Monday's 5-4 overtime loss, at least according to Hawks coach Joel Quenneville.

Others, such as NBC hockey analyst Mike Milbury, disagreed. Of Monday's loss he said, "This is on Bryan Bickell," who was either trying to put the puck on net or dump it in while two Hawks defensemen were in the midst of a change. Not long after, 45 seconds into the overtime they worked overtime to reach, Matt Beleskey finished off Ryan Kesler's rebound and the Hawks.

"I'm sure he feels bad," Quenneville said of Bickell on Tuesday.

Then he turned on the veiled sarcasm in defense of his winger.

"They had to make a couple plays after that to put it in the net," he continued. "It's one of those things, we saw basically another hockey game, nothing happened. Almost 40 minutes of nothing happening."

Quenneville knows a lot happened, like the Ducks scoring three unanswered goals in the first period. Like Jonathan Toews scoring two goals in a 1-minute, 12-second span late in the third to send a game to overtime for the third time in this series.

"When I say 'nothing,' there was a lot between that nothing," he concluded. "Then, basically, the puck drops, now you're focusing on one play. That's how close it is. We've seen some pretty crazy endings the last couple of games, so … "

And some pretty crazy beginnings, beginning with the three unanswered goals the Hawks surrendered in the first period Monday, the seventh time this postseason they have allowed at least that many in one period. Somehow, they are 4-3 in those games.

They did so four times in the first round against the Predators, once against the Wild and twice against the Ducks.

"I don't know what it was, but (it was) like we were sleeping there at the start," Saad said. "Their goals piled on. Mistake after mistake. They capitalized on it. … We know we've got to start better tomorrow."

Otherwise, there might not be another tomorrow.

No time for panic, though, according Niklas Hjalmarsson.

"It's more fun to play these games than the normal games," he said. "When it's all on the line, I think that's what you want. "

The Hawks under Quenneville are 1-3 in series they've trailed 3-2. On the other hand, coach Bruce Boudreau is 0-2 with the Ducks in Game 7s and 1-5 all time.

"We all came out of (Monday's) game with an anger and a real sour taste in our mouth," Quenneville said. "Sometimes that can be better than a history lesson."

They will find out Wednesday — and possibly Saturday back in Anaheim — which history repeats itself.

pskrbina@tribpub.com

Twitter @ChiTribSkrbina

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