Hawks not outworked this time — simply outplayed

Red Wings looking like the better team at the moment as they take 2-1 series lead

Tribune video by Brian Hamilton.

DETROIT — Sometimes, it takes more than urgency and effort.

Sometimes, a hockey team can pack all the sandpaper and abrasiveness coaches seek for a road trip into a hostile arena, and it still won't be enough.

Sometimes, playing with a sense of desperation for three periods means nothing without execution for 60 minutes.

So it was for the Blackhawks in an alarming 3-1 loss to the Red Wings on a long Monday night at Joe Louis Arena that officially shifted their season into crisis mode.

When the Hawks looked listless in Game 2, we rightfully rushed to blame an obvious lack of intensity and focus. If only the Hawks could use the same alibi to explain what happened at The Joe in Game 3. They can't.

Coaches can fix a team's mentality. Stopping a team peaking at the right moment like the Red Wings poses an entirely different dilemma for coach Joel Quenneville. The Hawks did everything in Game 3 they didn't do in Game 2. The Wings still did more to beat them.

Which team was the Western Conference's seventh seed again?

We can agree that the referees made their presence felt in Monday's loss more than Saturday's but not that it cost the Hawks a game. Yes, Viktor Stalberg's goal that would have tied the score at 2 in the third period — one that was waved off because Andrew Shaw was in the crease — changed momentum and deserved scrutiny.

"I disagreed with the call,'' Quenneville said. "He didn't hit the goalie.''

But it came shortly after officials looked the other way when Hawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson boarded Johan Franzen — and it had little to do with Pavel Datsyuk scoring the Wings' third goal two minutes later. Referee calls even out, even two bad ones. Championship teams make officiating moot.

Can the Hawks? They haven't yet.

When the Red Wings eliminated the second-seeded Ducks, the assumption around Chicago was that the Blackhawks were getting the right team. Back when the Wings were fighting to make the playoffs, that was true.

But a month later, the Hawks instead got the right team at the wrong time. They got a Red Wings team playing in front of a hot goalie and responding to perhaps Mike Babcock's best coaching job. That rapid development cannot be discounted when searching for reasons the Hawks suddenly trail this series.

When superstars aren't playing like superstars and secondary scorers aren't scoring, this happens. The Hawks need more than just Patrick Kane to score.

They need Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa to show up offensively. They need better defense from Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith and everybody else on the blue line. They need goalie Corey Crawford to come through better than he did in letting Datsyuk's soft goal sail past his shoulder for the Wings' third, spirit-crushing score.

They need to remember how they won the Presidents' Trophy.

The Hawks team that opened the game certainly looked familiar. When Jonathan Ericsson went after Toews after the whistle early, the captain stood up in a way that showed the Hawks vowed not to get pushed around again. When Seabrook shoved Daniel Cleary into the crossbar and Bryan Bickell challenged Kyle Quincey, they sent the same message.

In an arena named after a boxer, the Hawks had come prepared to brawl.

The furious start resulted in the Hawks outshooting the Wings 15-9 in the first and holding the hosts without a shot on goal for the first 6 1/2 minutes of the second. Everything favored the Hawks until Wings center Gustav Nyquist made the type of move that always will trump tenacity.

Nyquist took an outlet pass, crossed over on Seabrook wickedly enough to make him lose his balance and waited patiently until Crawford committed. Somewhere in the upper level, an octopus squirmed.

"I thought I could ride him out, but he made a nice deke," Seabrook said.

Just 31 seconds later, Drew Miller changed the game — and perhaps the series — with a rapid-fire goal that made it 2-0.

The flurry flustered the Hawks, who were too cute with the puck too often. They made too many passes and took too few shots on goal until the frantic third period, marred by 18 Hawks penalty minutes.

The Hawks went down with a fight, but I'm not sure getting mad necessarily will help them get even in the series. It will take more.

"We played with some emotion, but I wouldn't say it boiled over,'' Toews said. "We did exactly what we wanted to do.''

That was the good news. It was also the bad news.

Because the Red Wings still did everything better.

dhaugh@tribune.com

Twitter @DavidHaugh

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