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updated: 4/17/2011 10:22 PM

Different feeling at UC this year

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All of the same Blackhawks fans pulled on all of the same authentic sweaters and poured into United Center on Sunday night for the first home playoff game since winning the Stanley Cup.

Well, almost all of the same fans.

One man in a Hawks sweater, shortly before heading through the doors, gave away a standing-room-only ticket rather than accept the scalpers' insulting $5 and $10 offers.

That's a situation that never would've happened before any of last year's playoff games.

Nonetheless, the nearly 22,000 who did walk into the barn experienced much of the same pregame music as last year.

And when they roared during Jim Cornelison's performance of the national anthem, darn if it didn't provide the same chills as last spring.

Yet there seemed to be a spark missing from the arena -- as if Vancouver's 2-0 lead in the Western Conference quarterfinals made Sunday's attendance more of a rite than an impending celebration.

Put yet another way: The calm man wearing the "JESUS WILL RETURN" signboard outside the UC owned much more optimism than the average Hawks fan.

But when Duncan Keith rifled a slap shot past Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo less than seven minutes into Game 3, "Chelsea Dagger" blared and towels twirled and everything felt alive again.

At least for a while.