By Jon Fromi
The Chicago Blackhawks broke open a tie game with three third period goals, finishing up their game long attack on the Detroit Red Wings. The Hawks captured the opening game of this Western Conference semifinal series with an impressive 4-1 victory.
Shots on goal were in short supply early, with the Blackhawks coming out with a fierce forecheck. Returning center Dave Bolland was credited with the only shot for both teams in the first six minutes. The Red Wings managed just a single shot in the first half of the period, while the ‘Hawks got off three shots. Fortunately, one of those shots hooked up with twine.
The game’s first penalty came 8:01 into the period when Gustav Nyquist was whistled for the hook. Chicago took advantage of the power play, with Marian Hossa taking a feed from Jonathan Toews in the slot and burning the net at the 9:06 mark.
Detroit’s response was swift, just a tad over a minute later. Damien Brunner received the last of a series of crisp passes, starting with Jonathan Ericsson finding Nyquist to break out of their own zone. Coming down toward the left post, Brunner put a shot on Corey Crawford. The attempt was blocked but Brunner put back the rebound at 10:57 to tie the game.
After the Blackhawks controlled the first half of the opening period, Detroit would take over for the last ten minutes. Chicago killed an Andrew Shaw tripping penalty shortly after the game was evened up. Shaw committed another infraction, boarding Jakub Kindl in the 17th minute. The Red Wings came up empty and the period ended with the score 1-1.
Toews nearly created a goal with an early steal in the second period but his centering attempt was blocked by the skate of Ericsson. Patrick Sharp found Patrick Kane for a shot that glanced off of Howard before Nick Leddy sent a clearing attempt into the stands. Detroit had its third man advantage but the ‘Hawks PK unit was again up to the challenge.
Sharp drew a holding penalty on Kyle Quincey at the 4:57 mark. Bolland sent a one-timer Howard’s way late in the power play, but other than that Chicago didn’t create much in the two minutes.
After a long shift in the Detroit zone, Justin Abdelkader attempted to body slam Bolland to the ice. Dual roughing infractions sent both skaters to the box and play continued at full strength. The Hawks continued to control the puck in the Red Wings zone, culminating with Hossa sending a rocket into the glove of Howard.
Seconds later, Hossa poked a shot off of a faceoff win and was tripped by Niklas Kronwall at 13:26 of the second. Chicago slammed away at Howard from the blue line but couldn’t break through.
When the smoke cleared after a furious Blackhawks second 20 minutes, Chicago had outshot Detroit 17 to 5. The score, however, remained knotted at a goal apiece at the second intermission.
The action was back and forth early in the third period. Michal Rozsival’s rush to the net at the 3:42 mark was the best early chance. Late in the fifth minute, Bolland found himself all alone in the Detroit zone. The Rat bore down on Howard and had him down on the ice, but the Red Wings goalie made a pad save to slam the door on a golden opportunity.
The Blackhawks finally got the cover off of Howard’s net at the end of an extended tour of Detroit’s zone in the eighth minute. Kane held the puck in and sent it along the left boards. Sharp took possession of the puck in the corner and found a wide open Johnny Oduya in the slot. The shot went off the post and in at the 8:02 mark, giving Chicago a 2-1 lead.
The forecheck by the fourth line provided some insurance in the twelfth minute. The Hawks got the puck behind the net, resulting in a fight for the puck led by Daniel Carcillo. The puck was sent out front, where Marcus Kruger flipped a backhander into the net at the 11:23 mark to make it 3-1 Chicago.
The Blackhawks kept up the pressure on Howard, with Brandon Saad getting off a pair of nice scoring chances. Kane picked off a pass and led Sharp on a 2-on-1 that failed when the puck rolled before getting to Sharp’s stick.
With 2:43 to play in the contest, Kindl sent a spinning slap shot on net. Crawford knocked it down only to have Brunner whack it over Crawford’s pad and off the crossbar. The puck would have gone across the line if not for Brent Seabrook, who slapped the puck out of midair and prevented the goal.
Detroit pulled Howard in the 19th minute and nearly scored. Crawford turned away a point-blank shot from Abdelkader, and a few seconds later Sharp slid the puck into the empty Detroit net to seal the deal with the fourth Blackhawks goal.
-Chicago dominated all but about ten minutes of Game 1. If not for Howard this could have been over much earlier than it was.
-The ‘Hawks doubled down on Detroit in terms of shots-42 to 21. The Red Wings outshot Chicago 7-6 in the first period. From there, most of the game was spent in the Detroit zone.
-Carcillo played just 6:02, but props have to be given for his knocking the puck from the back of the net and across the crease to set up Kruger’s goal.
-As active as Pavel Datsyuk was early in this game, it’s odd to note that he wasn’t credited with a shot all evening.
-Much was made (and rightfully so) of Joel Quenneville wearing an orange tie in honor of a youngster that lost a battle with cancer a few days ago. Up in the team box, Viktor Stalberg probably wondered why he wasn’t treated as charitably. Will we see Youngblood on the ice before this series plays out?
-Jesse Rogers thought the boarding call on Shaw was a little spotty. Shaw did bring his elbow into Kindl’s helmet, though. May not have been boarding, but it wasn’t a smart play. Shaw deserved his seat in the box.
-Brendan Smith turned the puck over in his own zone as easily as he allegedly turned over his ID to Riley Sheahan last Halloween.
-Game 2 is Saturday night. Will Detroit benefit from the extra day of rest? If the forecheck is as strong as it was Wednesday, it may not matter.