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Like a punch-drunk fighter who keeps getting off the mat to take one more beating, the Blackhawks faced the Detroit Red Wings one night after being knocked silly against the Ottawa Senators.
Perhaps a dose of smelling salts got the Hawks' attention because they came out against the Wings with a strong opening period. But, for the 11th consecutive time on the road, the Hawks ended up down and out, falling 3-2 to the Wings.
Will the Hawks win again before the calendar turns to 2004? They have just one victory in the last 19 games, and New Jersey and St. Louis are on deck.
Friday's first period summed up the first 32 games of the season succinctly. After outshooting Detroit at one point 17-2, the Hawks went into the locker room tied 1-1.
"That's how we have to play," said rookie Brett McLean, who put the Hawks ahead with a power-play goal 14 minutes 57 seconds into the first period.
"We went after them, we got pucks deep, they couldn't get much going," McLean said. "It was frustrating to just have a 1-1 tie after the first period."
If there was ever a night in which the Hawks could have mailed in a performance, it would have been Friday.
"We have a lot of character in this room," McLean said. "For a lot of us, this is the toughest stretch we've had with our team."
After McLean's goal, the Red Wings tied it late in the period when Ray Whitney redirected a pass for Jiri Fischer. It was just Detroit's second shot of the period.
The Red Wings grabbed the lead midway through the second period when Brendan Shanahan banged home a Henrik Zetterberg pass.
The game-winning goal eventually went to Nicklas Lidstrom. His short-handed goaloddly enough at 13:54 of the third, the same time Shanahan scored in the secondcame after Kirk Maltby hammered Mark Bell into the boards.
The play went the other way and Bell, with the wind knocked out of him, couldn't stay with Lidstrom.
"I was going to get back into the play and I couldn't catch my breath, so I got off," Bell said.
Zetterberg gave Lidstrom a perfect pass and the defenseman picked out the top corner of the net for his fourth goal of the season. It was the seventh short-handed goal the Hawks have allowed this season. Only the Pittsburgh Penguins, with nine, have allowed more.
"I didn't even see what happened," Hawks coach Brian Sutter said. "All I know is [Bell's] guy scored the goal."
That made it 3-1. After putting 17 shots on Detroit goaltender Manny Legace in the first period, the Hawks found the going tougher in the last 40 minutes, finishing with 30.
Burke Henry made things slightly nervy for the Red Wings with his first NHL goal with 10 seconds remaining.
Because victories are a rarity, the Hawks can take some solace in the effort Friday and perhaps a building block.
"We can't seem to get the results we feel we deserve," McLean said. "Although it's frustrating for us, eventually it's going to turn. If we keep playing that same way."