By Brad Gardner
The sixth and final meeting of the season between the Blackhawks and Red Wings went down to a shootout, where Patrick Kane scored the deciding goal to give the visiting ‘Hawks a 3-2 victory. Corey Crawford played a strong game, despite giving up a pair of third-period goals, and did not allow a goal in the shootout to register his 30th win of the season.
Detroit’s third period comeback secured one point in the standings, thereby sealing up either the fourth or fifth seed of the Western Conference and a first round match-up against Nashville.
Despite the two points, Chicago settled into the sixth spot with 101 points (45-26-11 record) on the season. They will open the playoffs on the road against the winner of the Pacific Division.
The game played much like the rest of the season series. Each game between the two Central Division rivals has been decided by one goal. It was the fourth time in six games that the final score was 3-2 and the fourth time Chicago came out victorious. The ‘Hawks ended up taking 10 of a possible 12 points out of the season series against the Wings with a 4-0-2 record.
With several regulars out of the line-up, the ‘Hawks had some of their depth players step up to score the goals. Viktor Stalberg opened scoring midway through the first period on a rebound from Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard. Patrick Sharp sent the initial slap shot on net and the rebound was left in the middle of the ice. Howard popped back up to his feet after the first save, giving Stalberg an easy conversion through the five-hole to make it 1-0 Blackhawks.
Andrew Shaw extended the lead late in the second period. Sharp again played a key role with a no-look pass between his legs to set up Shaw with the open shot. The rookie drove to the net and converted for his 12th goal of the season to give the ‘Hawks the two-goal advantage heading into the second intermission.
Detroit did not back down in the third period. After killing off another Chicago power play early in the third period, Johan Franzen got a break on a bad-angle shot that slipped through a crack in Chicago’s netminder. Johnny Oduya sent a blind pass around the boards that was intercepted by Franzen. Crawford got over to the post with one knee down, but Franzen’s wrist shot still squeaked between his legs.
The goal drew the home crowd back into the game and led to an even harder push from the Wings. Rookie Gustav Nyquist, elevated to a line with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, had several opportunities himself as Detroit began to establish some offensive zone pressure. Crawford stood tall in goal during their best sequence, making a stop with good positioning on a Nyquist drive past Sami Lepisto and then stretching out for the pad save on the second chance by Zetterberg.
Not even Crawford’s best effort could have given him a chance on Datsyuk’s game-tying goal in the final minute of regulation. With Howard pulled for the extra attacker, Detroit overloaded the ice to Crawford’s right. Zetterberg threw the puck on net and it was blocked down in front by Duncan Keith. Tomas Holmstrom, battling with Keith in front of the net, found the puck between his skates and shoved a backhand pass between his legs across the crease. Datsyuk was the only player on the other side of the ice, slamming home the feed to knot the game at 2-2 at 19:13 of the third period.
Both teams had their opportunities in the overtime session, but neither converted on just two shots on net apiece. Stalberg had the best chance for Chicago, breaking into the zone past Niklas Kronwall but putting his backhand attempt wide of the net. Crawford faced considerable offensive zone possession and a couple shots through traffic but kept the puck out of the net.
Datsyuk opened the shootout with a beautiful deke between his legs but missed the net on his shot. Patrick Kane responded with some nifty moves of his own, enough to open up Howard’s legs and slide the puck through for the lone conversion of the shootout. Crawford gloved Jiri Hudler’s wrist shot in the second round and was saved by the post against Todd Bertuzzi to seal the win.
– Your Pacific Division scenarios: Phoenix currently leads the division with 95 points and 35 regulation/overtime wins. They will remain in the third spot with any win tonight against Minnesota. A Phoenix loss in regulation opens the door for the winner of tonight’s match-up between the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings (94 points each) to take the division crown. If Phoenix gets one point, they would hold the tiebreaker over any San Jose victory or a shootout win for Los Angeles. Los Angeles could take the third spot with a regulation or overtime win and either a regulation or overtime loss by Phoenix. San Jose needs a Phoenix loss in regulation and a win to move up to third in the Conference.
– Or, just check back tomorrow, when the NHL will release the full playoff schedule. At this point, we know only that the ‘Hawks will open on the road, somewhere way out West, either Wednesday or Thursday.
– The Blackhawks power play continues to sputter, going 0-for-6 with six shots this afternoon. They had an early opportunity in all three periods, including a first period four-minute high-sticking penalty against Riley Sheahan during his first NHL shift, but the unit was unable to take advantage.
– Lineup notes: Sami Lepisto took the line-up with Sean O’Donnell and Dylan Olsen getting the game off. Brendan Morrison suited up in place of Dave Bolland. Andrew Brunette was also scratched, moving Jimmy Hayes up to the Kane/Hossa line. Although they missed the game, Pierre McGuire really liked how Bolland and Toews practiced this morning, for what that’s worth.
– News of Ray Emery‘s one-year contract extension began to trickle out during the game. The signing is more of a move to shore up the depth for next year rather than an indictment of Crawford heading into the playoffs.
– Phoenix at Minnesota begins at 7pm central time. Los Angeles at San Jose begins at 9:30pm central and will be broadcast on NBC Sports.