CHICAGO -- In a season that has been nothing short of magical thus far, the Chicago Blackhawks showed Wednesday that they still have a few more tricks left up their sleeve.
Snapping a 1-1 tie that existed from the middle of the first period, the Blackhawks exploded for three goals in the third period to trounce the Detroit Red Wings 4-1 Wednesday in the opener of the Western Conference semifinals at the United Center.
"(We were) much better from our prior series," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said, referring back to the opening round against the Minnesota Wild. "I thought what we're talking about in our team game was in place. We had some pace, had some speed, zone time, and I thought everybody contributed."
That wasn't the case, though, for the Red Wings, who were outshot 42-21.
"We know we're better than this, so we have to find a way to get better for Game 2," Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "We have to do a way better job of just being on our toes, wanting the puck, talk to each other, winning battles. We didn't do near a good enough job of that tonight."
The Blackhawks garnered last-period goals from Johnny Oduya, Marcus Kruger and Patrick Sharp, the latter providing an empty-net tally with 49 seconds left.
"It was scary playing in a tie game against a team like that," Sharp said. "Good teams don't change the way they play. They just keep playing a team system, and that's what we did, and we were able to get a few in the third."
Getting goals from the second, third and fourth lines continued a trend that the Blackhawks rode to five-game series victory against the Wild.
Surprisingly, the team's top scorers, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, who combined for 46 goals in the regular season, have yet to score one goal in the postseason.
Instead, Sharp has stepped up in a big way in the playoffs with a team-leading six goals, while Marian Hossa has four, including a first-period score Wednesday.
It's almost as if Quenneville's playoff strategy is to keep his top scorers from scoring so as to confound the opposition. It worked well against the Wild, and again in Game 1 against the Red Wings.
There was a significant new wrinkle in Wednesday's game, as well. Chicago spent much of the regular season and the Wild series being more of a finesse team, but Wednesday the Blackhawks played a markedly more physical game than usual.
"We're going to have to keep going and go at them as much as you can, try to get that little bit of an edge to get the go-ahead goal," Oduya said.
Detroit, which is known for its physical style of play, initially seemed taken aback that the Blackhawks came out from the opening faceoff in a pronounced attack mode on both defense and offense.
"I was hoping to come in here and steal this first game," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said.
Quenneville said of his players, "I thought everybody had a good game. I thought we had a lot of good contributions in a lot of areas there, and certain guys were more productive offensively, but the team game was what led to our offense."
In addition, Chicago's penalty kill was a perfect 3-for-3, extending its streak of killing off all 20 of its opponents' man-advantage opportunities this postseason.
The fierce rivals are facing each other for what will be the last time as conference opponents. Detroit will move to the Eastern Conference next season.
Wednesday was the 800th meeting all-time between the teams (regular season and postseason). Even with the loss, Detroit still leads the overall series 398-318-84.
Chicago, which swept the four-game regular-season series between the teams, now holds a 40-35 lead in all-time playoff meetings with Detroit, but the Blackhawks have not won a playoff series against the Red Wings since 1992.
Chicago opened the scoring at 9:03 of the first period when Hossa slammed home a power-play slap shot past Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard from about 30 feet out.
Detroit wasted little time tying the game, as a Chicago defensive breakdown allowed Damien Brunner to score at 10:57 past Chicago goalie Corey Crawford.
Brunner and Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg are tied for the team lead with three goals apiece in the postseason.
Oduya's goal at 8:02 of the third period snapped the tie, and Kruger scored just over three minutes later.
Game 2 is a Saturday afternoon matinee in Chicago before the series shifts to Detroit next week for Games 3 and 4.
NOTES: Crawford continued to start in goal for the Blackhawks, even though Ray Emery is reportedly fully healed from a lower-body injury that kept him out of the Minnesota series. Crawford made 20 saves Wednesday. ... Howard finished with 40 saves. ... Detroit F Justin Abdelkader left the game early in the first period after a vicious crosscheck, but he returned in the second period, even flipping Chicago C Dave Bolland, with both players drawing penalties of two minutes for slashing and two more minutes for roughing. ... Quenneville benched F Viktor Stalberg for the game. At least one media report claimed it was due to Stalberg complaining about lack of playing time in the Wild series. ... Attendance was 21,494.