The tale of two division rivals came to an end on Friday night. Well, at least for the regular season.
In what has been a year dominated by the Blackhawks, the Red Wings entered their final matchup of the season against their Windy City foes with plenty of reason to fight. But like their previous three efforts since the shortened 2013 campaign began, Detroit couldn't hang on, falling 3-2 in a shootout.
"We can't be feeling sorry for ourselves," Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall said following his team's loss. "I thought we did some really good things out there tonight. We just have to stay positive and stick with the program and just keep working hard. "
That program is all Detroit has left to lean on as the Red Wings fight to hang on to a playoff spot for dear life. Suffering from a season sweep is difficult enough, but in addition to all that, the Red Wings are desperate to earn every point they can as they remain in a tight race with Dallas, Columbus and Phoenix. In a matchup as close as Friday's was, the loss stings just that much more.
"Of course we wanted that extra [point], they tied it up late in the third and it was a tight game all throughout the shootout," forward Henrik Zetterberg said in a quiet Red Wings locker room. "Unfortunately we couldn't score more than they did.
"We got one point, but we wanted two. I think we played good enough to get two."
Head coach Mike Babcock also thought his team played well enough to rack up the two points. But when it comes down to it, he sees where Chicago had the advantage.
"The bottom line is, the last couple years, every game's been a one-goal game besides the blowout (on March 31) in our building," Babcock said. "They're finding a way to score more goals.
"They're a deeper team without any question about it."
Following the game, Babcock was asked about his team's plan of attack as they battle to see playing time past April 27, but he didn't seem too fond of those questions.
"You mean, like, win games? Win a game, that's all," he responded when asked his team's big-picture plan. "To me, we take the same approach every year all the time. We're just trying to get better. When you win, everything's good."
The Stars recorded a win and Coyotes earned a point Friday as well, closing in on the Red Wings' eighth seed standing in the Western Conference. But Babcock wasn't interested in talking about other teams' performances.
"We understand the situation pretty well," he said with a rather firm tone. "You guys are talking about other teams; you are what you are. This is what we've earned this year, this is what our team is.
"We're not better and not worse than what we are, so to me, we're just a team battling to get in the playoffs."
Friday marked the final time the Blackhawks and Red Wings would face off as division rivals in the regular season before Detroit heads to the Eastern Conference. But as the postseason nears, these two teams could easily face each other once again.
Despite who Chicago faces, Friday's victory brought an extra something special to the league's top team. The Blackhawks clinched the Central Division, earning home-ice advantage as they head into the postseason.
“We’re gonna keep going. I think that’s the number one thing," captain Jonathan Toews said. "We got our division we got home ice (in the first two rounds). We just keep building. I think it really shows that we’re hungry and we’re really motivated to improve every single night. It doesn’t matter what aspect of our game we’re working on. There’s still some parts that we can really work on as far as our power play, even our penalty kill maybe.
"We want to keep working and when you have the confidence to be able to come back in games like that I think it’s a huge thing going into the playoffs.”