The Detroit Red Wings said all the right things heading into the Western Conference Final, but their failure to execute at the start of Game 1 on Sunday at Joe Louis Arena provided a reason for concern.
Chris Osgood's inability to clear the puck away from traffic ultimately led to Chicago Blackhawks taking the early lead as Adam Burish intercepted Osgood's attempt and then backhanded through the goalie's skates just 5:25 into the game.
But while some teams would have panicked, the defending did not en route to a 5-2, series-opening victory. Game 2 is slated for Tuesday night at The Joe (7:30 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN, RDS).
"We played well and got some goals, but at the same time, we turned the puck over way too much," said Osgood, who made 30 saves. "We gave them a lot of energy. They've got a young team and they feed off turnovers. We've got to make sure we rid that for the next game. But we're pretty happy with our compete level, especially coming off a tough series against Anaheim."
Considering how physical and intense their Round 2 win against the Ducks was -- and considering it only ended on Thursday night -- one could understand why the Wings appeared sluggish when the puck dropped. It wasn't until Dan Cleary tied the game at 8:23 when Detroit got back on the right track.
"I knew that was going to happen," Wings coach Mike Babcock admitted when asked if Anaheim was still in his team's head. "As much as you talk about it, as much as you try to prepare in the short term, I knew that was going to be the case.
"This (series) is going to get going. But for us, I don't think initially, at least in the first 10 minutes, we were ready to engage at that level."
By the end, it was clear the Red Wings were ready to engage. They ended up peppering Nikolai Khabibulin with 15 shots in the opening period and headed into the dressing room in a 1-1 tie. Johan Franzen gave the Wings the lead in the second before Detroit scored three times in the third after Kris Versteeg's game-tying goal early in the period.
"I thought they came out with a really good pace in the first five minutes," Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said of the Blackhawks. "I thought once we got our legs going, we started playing better, controlling the game a little bit more. I thought we started to feel a lot more comfortable. To get that first win, it's always important."
Osgood admitted he was impressed by Chicago's speed when the puck dropped -- something the Wings stopped admiring awfully quickly.
"We weren't flat ... they're a fast team," Osgood said. "They throw the puck to the net and they get there fast. We've got to be quick around our own net.
"I think we learned in the first 10 minutes it was going to be the quickest series we've played yet. It was important to get off to a good start. It was a tough game. I'm proud of the way the guys played."
Contact Brian Compton at: email@example.com.