By Brad Gardner
Three days after the Chicago Blackhawks took a 4-1 victory in Game 1 of their second round playoff series against rival Detroit, the Red Wings responded in kind with a 4-1 win of their own to even the series. Henrik Zetterberg assisted on two goals for Detroit as the visitors handed the ‘Hawks their first home loss of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Red Wings’ tight-checking game didn’t give the Blackhawks nearly as much room to operate as they had in the latter stages of the first game. The puck possession time favored Detroit, and even when the Hawks were able to get a shot on goal, they did not challenge Jimmy Howard too much. The Red Wings goalie made 19 saves on only 20 shots, the lowest total for the Blackhawks in the playoffs.
Corey Crawford made 26 saves on 30 shots and did not look as sharp as the Blackhawks had come to expect of him in the playoffs. He battled a lot of traffic in Game 2 and most of the goals he gave up came against odd-man rushes, so the loss can’t be hung on the goaltending alone.
Detroit came out and skated with Chicago from the drop of the puck and the teams traded offensive possessions through much of the first period. The Jonathan Toews line earned a few looks while Crawford came up big against good looks from Pavel Datsyuk and Justin Abdelkader on the top lines and the skilled combination of Gustav Nyquist and Damien Brunner farther down the lineup.
Although Chicago’s initial powerplay opportunity was killed off midway through the first period, Patrick Kane scored his first goal of the playoffs at the 14:05 mark of the opening period to put the home team up 1-0. Johnny Oduya controlled a Red Wings dump-in against Henrik Zetterberg on the forecheck and cleared the puck to the neutral zone. Patrick Sharp lifted the stick of Brendan Smith in the neutral zone and chased the puck into the offensive zone. His initial crossing pass was blocked by Kyle Quincey, but the puck bounced right to Michal Handzus. He settled the puck on his forehand before firing a puck over for Kane’s one-time blast, catching Jimmy Howard in-between and with little chance to stop the shot.
The Blackhawks took the lead into the intermission, but Detroit came out and had a dominant second period, holding Chicago to just five shots on goal in the middle frame and taking the 2-1 lead with a pair of goals.
Damien Brunner tied the game less than three minutes into the second period on a deflection. Jakub Kindl shot the puck from the blue line and Brunner was able to catch a piece of the puck in the slot, knocking it just inside the post wide of Crawford. The initial shot itself was shielded by a lot of traffic, coupled with the deflection, and Crawford didn’t have much of a chance to keep the tying goal out of his net.
The Wings continued to control play through the second period, and with just under four minutes left in the second, Brendan Smith gave the Red Wings their first lead of the series after finishing off a centering pass from Zetterberg. The defenseman had gone down to the ice in his own zone, and by the time he jumped into the offensive play, Duncan Keith and Crawford were unprepared for a play to the weak side. Zetterberg sent an accurate centering pass from below the goal line and Smith beat Patrick Sharp to the doorstep to make the score 2-1 late in the second period.
Even with the Blackhawks needing to score the next goal, Detroit’s skating and puck possession continued to limit the Hawks chances. Johan Franzen eventually got that next goal to extend the Red Wings lead to 3-1 at 7:19 of the third period. Jonathan Ericsson’s pass from his own defensive zone sprung Franzen on a breakaway against Niklas Hjalmarsson, who did not have the same amount of speed built up. Franzen drove in on his off-wing and his short-side wrist shot deflected off of Crawford’s shoulder and into the top corner of the net.
Valtteri Filppula all but sealed the win at 12:03 of the third period on another goal off the rush. Dave Bolland won a faceoff back to Brent Seabrook, but Zetterberg beat everybody to the puck and pushed it in transition. He dropped a pass to Filppula, who drove to the net, path cleared by Dan Cleary’s drive to the net that eliminated Nick Leddy from the play, and was able to sweep a backhand attempt wide of Crawford. Bolland got a shot on Filppula on the backcheck, but he was still able to score as he went down to the ice.
The Blackhawks didn’t put up much more of a fight in the third period, putting up a total seven shots in final 20 minutes.
– The Blackhawks penalty kill was perfect against four Red Wings powerplays. The Chicago powerplay also came up empty on two chances.
– With the win, the Red Wings became the first road team to win a game in the second round of the NHL playoffs.
– The Blackhawks total of 20 shots was uncharacteristically low, particularly in the postseason. It was not the lowest total of the season, however, as the Hawks managed only 19 shots in Ray Emery’s 47-save shootout win in Calgary.
– Joel Quenneville juggled lines, particularly after Detroit took the lead. Nothing stuck, but safe to say he was looking for some combination that could get some consistent pressure beyond the top line. The Toews line accounted for half of the Blackhawks shots, with Saad leading the team with five.
– The Rozsival/Oduya pairing finished a plus-1 in Game 2, but the rest of the defensemen finished with a minus-2 rating.
– The Blackhawks led in the hit column 36-26, led by Daniel Carcillo (7) and Brent Seabrook (6).
– 3 Stars of the Game: 3. Niklas Kronwall… 2. Henrik Zetterberg… 1. Damien Brunner.
– The team’s will take the ice at Joe Louis Arena on Monday for a pivotal Game 3, scheduled for a 7:30 central start time.