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Blackhawks have rare series lead, want more

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- By this point, the Chicago Blackhawks are old pros at overcoming the odds to win series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Entering the Western Conference Second Round against the Minnesota Wild, which started Friday at United Center with a 5-2 Chicago win, the Blackhawks overcame deficits in three of their previous four series to win, dating to the 2013 playoffs.

They came back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Semifinals. They came back from a 2-1 deficit to beat the Boston Bruins in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. This year, they climbed out of a 2-0 hole to beat the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference First Round.

Holding a 1-0 lead on Minnesota prior to Game 2 on Sunday at United Center (3 p.m. ET; NBC, TSN, RDS), the Blackhawks hope to avoid another momentum-sapping defeat that could again put them in a tough spot.

"Once it gets a little bit tougher for us, we tend to come together a little bit more," Chicago defenseman Johnny Oduya said. "That said, losing one game could be the one that will knock you out. There's no reason to wait around. We don't want to do that. We talked about [Game 1], now we have to play better."

That's because, aside from the final score, the Blackhawks were not pleased with their performance in the opener. They were outshot 32-22 in the game, 17-3 in the second period while clinging to a 2-0 lead, then coughed up the lead early in the third period on goals by Clayton Stoner at 2:19 and Kyle Brodziak at 6:56.

Right wing Patrick Kane answered with two goals, but none of the Blackhawks nor coach Joel Quenneville sounded all that thrilled afterward.

"We got away with one and we're not going to do that anymore this series," Oduya said. "We're going to have to play our best to win games."

Captain Jonathan Toews had similar feelings about Game 1, particularly that second period. They scored a pretty power-play goal by right wing Marian Hossa to make it 2-0, but were held to the three shots and forced to expend a lot of energy defending.

"I think we almost fed them that confidence that they could win that game [Friday] with our own sloppy play," Toews said. "We weren't happy with the way we played. We made a lot of mistakes that were unnecessary. I think it just comes down to making sure that we've got that work ethic and that we've got that energy and that high pace we always talk about, and other things will fall into place and make things harder on them. I think they gained that momentum [to start the third], gained that energy that they wanted off our poor play in a way. We'll try and be better in that regards [Sunday]."

It's what Quenneville is expecting, nothing less.

"We've got to be better than we were [Friday] night," he said. "I think [in] areas across the board, technically we have to be better and [our] pace has got to be quicker. It's a fast team. There's not a lot of time and space out there, so we've got to react better and we've got to be more alert and more aware, and that's across the board."

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