CHICAGO | Execute the game plan or start digging your own grave.
The Detroit Red Wings couldn’t slip up again Saturday as they did in Game 1, described as a “wake-up call” by Wings star Henrik Zetterberg.
Either separate the puck from the Blackhawks’ top forwards while crowding them, or find yourself down 2-0 in the Western Conference semifinals.
“We gave them less space,” said Wings coach Mike Babcock. “They’ve got four elite, elite forwards. They have lots of depth, but they have four guys who are all-world and you can’t give them much room.”
Between limiting the Hawks to just Patrick Kane’s first-period goal and swarming goalie Corey Crawford, the Wings made it a series with a dominant 4-1, nationally-televised victory in Game 2.
They’ve stolen a game on the Hawks’ ice. Now Chicago has to return the favor at least once on the road with up to three games now scheduled for Detroit compared to two in the United Center.
In one of their poorest performances of the season, the Hawks were outshot 30-20 while allowing the Wings’ attackers almost free access to Crawford.
He did well to keep the score in check until Johan Franzen and Valtteri Filppula locked it up for Detroit with goals in the third period.
Kane was perhaps the Hawks’ sharpest self-critic.
“When we do have it (the puck), not throwing it away,” he said. “It seems like we did that a lot, just kind of give it back to them. They regrouped with a lot of speed and came right back at us.
“They have the momentum right now, so we have to try to get it back somehow.”
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville believed his team’s game was “way off.” He was pleased about the pace in Game 1 and the first 10 minutes Saturday. Then, the Hawks did not sustain the pace the rest of the game, he added.
Zetterberg shadowed Hawks counterpart Jonathan Toews to keep him off the scoreboard for the postseason.
“Last game, we played smart defensively, and that was by holding onto the puck and making plays in their zone and keeping it out of the danger area,” Toews said.
“They’re going to come back and play much harder than in the frickin’ Game 1. Obviously, we didn’t quite match the effort.”
Damien Brunner scored his second goal of the series to tie it in the second. Later that same period, Zetterberg put a pretty pass onto defenseman Brendan Smith’s stick and he beat Crawford to give the Wings the lead for good.
“We’re not happy,” said Hawks defenseman Brent Seabrook. “We’re ticked off about this afternoon. At the end of the day, it’s one game. I think both teams would be stupid if they thought they were going to come in here, and either team was going to win four straight.
“We have a lot of history with these guys obviously over the years. We know it’s going to be a hard series, a tough series.”