The night inside the United Center started out with about as much enthusiasm and passion as you'd expect from a game between the Blackhawks and the Red Wings. Wednesday marked the first matchup of this semifinals series, as well as the beginning of an end for these long-time conference rivals.
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After upsetting the second-seeded Ducks in Game 7 of the Western Conference quarterfinals, the Red Wings made their way back to the United Center with a pretty hefty task at hand. With very little time to rest between each series, Detroit had to face a team that shut them out in the regular season and tallied the best record in the league.
But all of that was in the past and the Red Wings were ready to start over against the Blackhawks. Things looked pretty even throughout the first 20 minutes of the matchup, but as soon as the Blackhawks took the ice for the second period, the Red Wings were left behind.
"I don't know if (the Blackhawks) had their legs in the first period, but I thought they skated way better in the second and third. I was hoping to come in here and steal the first game," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said following his team's 4-1 loss. "I saw us yesterday at practice and I wasn't surprised when I saw us today, I didn't think we were very quick (or executed properly).
"We're not trying to take anything away from them, they were better than us. The score tonight was more than fair as far as I'm concerned."
While the Blackhawks had nearly a week off between games, the Red Wings closed their series out in Anaheim just three days ago. Now both teams have a good chunk of time off before Saturday's Game 2 matinee, and Babcock sees no reason for his team not to perform at their best.
"We've got to get up to speed because we haven't played like that in a while. So just getting some energy back," Babcock said. "The way this series is set up, we have no reason not to be very good in the next game. We have to get back at it and play at a high tempo because obviously (the Blackhawks) are playing at a high level tonight that we weren't playing on."
So what comes next for the Red Wings? After giving up three goals in the third period, the players in the visiting locker room reiterated the importance of playing a full game. Detroit struggled with closing out games during the regular season, and the team is ready to improve in that aspect before Game 2.
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"We can't (slow down) at the end. Chicago's too good of a team for that," Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "We have to play for 60 minutes. It's something we have to focus on going forward.
"In the third, for some reason we ended up watching them play hockey instead of just going after them. We know that we're a much better team that this. The second and third period were not nearly good enough. We know we're better than this so we have to find a way to get better here for Game 2."