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It's not looking good for the Blackhawks
By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Staff

Blackhawks goalie Cristobal Huet reacts after Detroit Red Wings' Valtteri Filppula's goal during the second period of Game 4.


Associated Press

The Hawks bench solemnly watches the scoreboard in the second period.


Associated Press

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Published: 5/24/2009 5:25 PM | Updated: 5/24/2009 9:49 PM

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Tim Sassone's Game 4 tracker

Three stars

1. Marian Hossa: The Red Wings star broke a six-game goal drought with 2, and they were both big, the first coming short-handed in the opening period.

2. Valtteri Filppula: The underrated Detroit center had a goal and 2 assists, making the absence of Pavel Datsyuk easier for the Red Wings to take.

3. Brian Rafalski: With defense partner Nicklas Lidstrom sidelined, Rafalski played 23 minutes and had 3 assists.

Key stat

Hawks starting goalie Cristobal Huet was pulled at 4:05 of the second period after allowing 4 goals on 17 shots. He returned to start the third.

Big moment

Johan Franzen's goal with 21 seconds left in the first period to make it 2-0 was a shot from the far right circle that Cristobal Huet can't let get past him.

The quote

"In general, it was not a good enough effort as a whole." - Hawks winger Patrick Sharp

Looking ahead

The Hawks come face to face with the first elimination game for them Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena.

What you heard was the bubble bursting Sunday afternoon at the United Center.

The Blackhawks' chances of advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals took a serious hit when goalie Cristobal Huet couldn't answer the challenge of replacing the injured Nikolai Khabibulin.

It went about as poorly as it could for Huet, who allowed 4 goals on 17 shots before being pulled 4:05 into the second period of the Hawks' 6-1 meltdown loss to the Detroit Red Wings in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals.

The Red Wings, who played without all-star defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom because of a lower-body injury, lead the best-of-seven series 3-1 and can eliminate the Hawks on Wednesday in Game 5 at Joe Louis Arena.

"We can't win three games at once, so we just have to worry about Wednesday's game in Detroit," Patrick Sharp said. "Obviously our backs are against the wall and we need a desperate effort."

With two days off before the next game, the only chance the Hawks might have now is if Khabubulin can recover and play Wednesday.

"We'll get a better indication how he is (Tuesday,)," said Hawks coach Joel Quenneville, who is giving his team Monday off.

Penalties were another big problem for the Hawks, who gave the Red Wings 8 power plays that resulted in 3 goals.

"You can't give Detroit's power play that many opportunities," Sharp said. "We gave their skill guys a pretty easy game playing on the power play all night long. They're going to burn you sooner or later."

The Hawks took 9 penalties alone for roughing. Ben Eager got a 10-minute misconduct and a game misconduct.

Quenneville was livid at what he felt was the shoddy work of referees Marc Joanette and Kevin Pollack. He especially was critical of a roughing penalty to Matt Walker at the end of the first period that Detroit turned into a power-play goal and 3-0 lead.

"Well, I think we witnessed probably the worst call in the history of sports today at the end of the (first) period there - nothing play," Quenneville said. "You know, they score, it's 3-0, they ruin a good hockey game.

"They absolutely destroyed what was going on on the ice. They ruined the whole game."

The Hawks don't think they're done yet despite facing the problem of having to beat the Red Wings three times in a row - and twice at Joe Louis Arena.

"This is our biggest challenge yet as a team," captain Jonathan Toews said. "As a team we have to look each other in the eye and ask ourselves if it's the best that we can do. As far as I know there's still more. We just have to dig deep."

Huet had some decent moments early, but Johan Franzen's goal with 21 seconds left in the first period was a killer in terms of its timing and softness.

Franzen's shot from deep in the right circle through defenseman Brian Campbell saw Huet drop to his knees and wave at the puck with his blocker as it sailed past him and into the top left corner.

"I'm never happy about a goal, but on (that one), I was surprised a little bit. It shouldn't happen. I didn't see it coming," Huet said. "Obviously, I'm disappointed. I feel like I didn't help the team. It's not a great feeling."

Down 3-0, the Hawks started a comeback when Toews scored on a power play at 3:53 of the second period to make it 3-1, but Marian Hossa responded just 12 seconds later on the next trip down the ice.

That deflating goal led to Quenneville yanking Huet, who was making only his second appearance since April 11, and giving rookie Corey Crawford his first taste of playing in the playoffs. Huet did return to start the third period.

"Those goals they scored were some pretty good goals," Crawford said in defense of Huet. "I think it was tough timing, especially his situation having not played in awhile and stepping in against these guys. That's pretty hard. I don't really blame him at all."

Crawford didn't have it easy in his brief stint. He had to face a full two minutes of a Red Wings 5-on-3 power play at 7:26 when Walker went off for interference and Kris Versteeg for cross-checking.

Detroit quickly found the back of the net with Henrik Zetterberg connecting on a rebound at 7:42 for a 5-1 lead. Zetterberg added a second goal in the third period.