CHICAGO - After the Flyers exited Game 1 with no penalties and a track-meet loss, they said they wanted to be physical, and disciplined, and set a tone of toughness that would make their opponents walk away with their mouths bloodied and their ears ringing.

That's exactly what the Blackhawks did.

An abusive first period set the Flyers on their heels, stunned by the checking dealt by the Blackhawks. For much of the rest of the first two periods - until a two-goal Chicago lead opened, anyway - the Flyers ducked and covered.

And, so, they lost, 2-1.

"We knew they were going to do that. That was to be expected," Danny Briere said of the Blackhawks' increased physicality. "We were trying to weather the storm early. [But] I think we held on to that conservative play too long."

By reputation, Chicago killed with speed, sliced opponents open with their quick and deadly hands; so it seemed, after a six-goal game in their Game 1 win.

By practice, last night, they struck with the force of a blunt weapon, almost ignoring their scoring instincts as they sought to bring the pain.

The main instrument of abuse, of course, was weighty winger Dustin Byfuglien. At 6-3 and 257 pounds, Big Buff set about to bruise and batter, and so he did.

He checked much-marked Darroll Powe hard as they glided over to change. That happened 3 1/2 minutes into the game. It happened a lot thereafter, too, and the Flyers played along - comically, at times.

The 22,275 at the United Center erupted into derisive laughter when the Flyers' Daniel Carcillo took an open-ice run at Tomas Kopecky, missed, and crunched Jeff Carter instead, knocking Carter's helmet askew.

"Sorry," Carcillo said to his dazed teammate.

The crowd laughed at that, but they mostly responded with yells of bloodlust at the collisions.

Byfuglien mashed Kimmo Timonen midway through the period. He upended Carcillo on the same shift. He crushed Powe again about a minute later, the last of his four hits in the first period. He finished with five.

"I was trying to get in there, get my nose dirty," said Powe, who relishes the sort of game that last night was. "We knew their personnel; that they have some guys who like to play the body."

The Flyers actually finished with a 37-35 hit advantage. That didn't satisfy their coach.

"I think we should have started a little better tonight," said Peter Laviolette. "Their forecheck was strong. Their physical play was strong."

It wasn't all one-sided. Chris Pronger delivered a massive hit on Byfuglien himself near the 6-minute mark, and Braydon Coburn managed a shot on Kopecky soon after, but the Blackhawks - especially Byfuglien - shook off those charges the way a bear shakes off gnats.

Then, it was back to battering. Jonathan Toews clobbered Powe as Powe cleared the puck on a power play with about 5 minutes left in the first. Troy Brouwer nailed Braydon Coburn to the end boards late in the period, after which Chicago held a 20-13 hit advantage. It wasn't that close.

Hitting turned to defense as the game progressed, but the theme continued, the Flyers managing some redemption. Carcillo took out Brian Campbell early in the second period, and Oskars Bartulis - really - punished Marian Hossa with 7 minutes to play in the second.

"You could definitely feel that . . . it was a little more physical than the first game," said Carcillo, who admitted that, after sitting the past two games, he was "too fired up."

Having proved their ability to hit, the Hawks potted a pair 28 seconds apart, then got back to hitting.

Brouwer took a roughing penalty at the end of the period, in late on a scrum, assaulting Carter from behind. They got smarter, but no less vicious.

Ben Eager hammered Lukas Krajicek 2 minutes into the third, and Brent Sopel clocked Ville Leino 3 minutes later.

The Flyers out-hit the Hawks, 13-9 in the second, 11-8 in the third - but then, Chicago spent the third protecting a lead and staying out of the penalty box.

The hit totals didn't nearly tell the story. The Blackhawks wanted to send a message.

"We didn't back down. We knew what was going to come at us," defenseman Brian Campbell said. "We knew we had to initiate as much as they did."

Or more.