DETROIT -- Few thought Detroit would have an easy time with the Colorado Avalanche. Still, the Red Wings didn't expect to be in this kind of hole.
The Red Wings swept the Los Angeles Kings in the first round but have suddenly lost their scoring punch. They are down 2-0, with the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal resuming tonight at Joe Louis Arena.
"We are ready to pay the price," Avalanche coach Bob Hartley said. "You just have to look at the faces of our players. After two games, there are lots of bumps and bruises. That's playoff hockey, and we have to keep doing the same things."
This is not the way the Red Wings figured things would go.
After winning successive Stanley Cup championships in 1997 and 1998, the Red Wings were spent. When they reported to camp in the autumn of 1998, they felt like the season -- which went well into June -- had just ended.
When the playoffs began in 1999, Detroit ran off six straight wins, including two in Denver. But the Red Wings ran out of gas and the Avalanche won the next four games, eliminating Detroit in the second round.
Steve Yzerman, the Detroit captain, felt that might have been a blessing in disguise. The Red Wings reported to camp last fall rested and full of energy. Determined to win back the Cup, too.
But Colorado goaltender Patrick Roy blanked the Red Wings 2-0 in the first game, then came back for a 3-1 win in a second game in which Detroit did something its opponents frequently do -- take bad penalties. Colorado's first two goals came on power plays; the third was an empty-netter.
"I don't know how to explain it," Detroit center Igor Larionov said. "It's the playoffs, and it's a huge game. Of course you have to control your emotions. But we're taking those penalties and they score a couple of power play goals and from there, they play defensive, disciplined hockey."
Meanwhile, the Red Wings' high-powered offense has disappeared.
"We have a lot of guys overdue," said Detroit coach Scotty Bowman, seeking his ninth Stanley Cup. "It's early in the series, and you have to go game by game."
Under Bowman, the Red Wings have won 15-of-18 playoff series since being bumped in the first round by the San Jose Sharks in 1993. Detroit is the only team to advance beyond the first round of the playoffs each of the past five seasons.
None of that is going to help them now, however. Colorado has won 14 of its last 15 games, including the final eight games of the regular season.
"We know how quickly a series can turn," Roy said. "But now the pressure is on them. They are in their building."
Roy also conceded he likes playing in Detroit.
"Yes, I do, but don't tell anybody," he said.
Detroit goalie Chris Osgood, who was injured when the Avs began their four-game run against the Red Wings last season, has played reasonably well in this series.
"Last year was last year," Osgood said. "Look what happened after the second game. We have to get to the net and find a way to score goals."
Osgood has a 35-19 overall record in the playoffs, but he is 2-8 against the Avs. Bowman, however, said Osgood can't be blamed for the fix the Red Wings find themselves in.
"We gave up four goals in two games," Bowman said. "You can't put it on the goalie for that. He's not the reason we are not scoring."
Well, what is the reason?
"There were a lot of one-on-one battles all over the ice," Colorado defenseman Ray Bourque said. "You have to win them and can't get beat. We won many of those battles."