Howard, Red Wings stand tall, Take 2-1 series lead; Game 3 clouded over questions on officiating

By Brad Gardner

The second round playoff series between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings, tied at one game apiece, shifted to Joe Louis Arena for Game 3 on Monday night. Even though the Blackhawks offense opened up to the tune of 40 shots, doubling their total from Game 2, Jimmy Howard stood tall in net for the Red Wings and carried his team to a 3-1 victory.

Quick strikes from bottom-six forwards Gustav Nyquist and Drew Miller in the second period put the Blackhawks in a hole from which they would not get out. Patrick Kane scored for the second consecutive game, but Howard came up with the save on the rest of Chicago’s 39 shots, including saves on 16 of the 17 shots he faced against the Hawks late push in the third period.

Viktor Stalberg suited up for the Blackhawks after being a healthy scratch for the first two games of the series. It looked like his night might end early when on his first shift the game, Jakub Kindl ducked a check, sending Stalberg head first into the boards. He was slow to get up but eventually skated off under his own power. After a few minutes in the locker room, Stalberg returned to the bench.

The Hawks got off to a fast start in the first, putting 15 shots on Howard in the first 20 minutes. Joel Quenneville‘s new first line of Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews, and Marian Hossa was part of the fast start with great looks from Hossa and Toews early in the first. The team came up empty on two powerplay chances in the first, but both units were able to possess the puck and sustain some pressure in the Detroit end of the ice.

Detroit had their share of chances in the first, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk each had good looks, but Corey Crawford turned away all nine shots that he faced in the opening stanza.

The Blackhawks failed on their third powerplay early in the second period, but the team was successful in gaining some momentum. They hemmed the Wings into their own zone for an extra minute after the advantage, but still could not get the puck past Howard.

Play opened up eventually and the team’s began to trade chances at either end. Gustav Nyquist was the first to break through on an excellent rush through and around the Blackhawks defense. Damien Brunner sprung Nyquist up the wing with speed and into the Blackhawks zone. He dragged the puck between the stick and feet of Brent Seabrook and broke into the middle of the ice. Crawford came out on top of his crease, but Nyquist waited and skated until the net opened up and lifted the puck over Crawford’s outstretched stick, giving the Red Wings the 1-0 lead.

Only 31 seconds later, Drew Miller put the Red Wings up 2-0. Michal Rozsival flubbed a clearing attempt and it was picked off by Cory Emmerton, who made a quick pass to Patrick Eaves closer to the net. Eaves skated it towards the crease, his first shot hitting Crawford in the chest and bouncing out and his second whack off the pad. The puck was loose in the crease and Johnny Oduya tried to sweep it out of trouble from his stomach, but Miller dove into the crease and deflected the puck over the goal line.

The Blackhawks could hardly get their wind back in the second, amassing just eight shots in the middle period despite a pair of powerplay chances. There were more looks than that as the defensemen were active in getting the puck towards the goal, including one chance in which Niklas Hjalmarsson drew iron on a shot that rattled through the traffic.

After an early penalty kill in the third period, the Blackhawks charged back into the game. Patrick Sharp broke into the Detroit zone for a shot on goal with one of the few odd-man rushes the Hawks had seen to that point of the game.

Patrick Kane finally got the Blackhawks on the board 4:35 into the third period. Duncan Keith sent a tall backhand saucer pass out of his own zone to Kane breaking towards the Detroit blue line. A couple fortunate bounces and Kane was able to skate right into the puck, shielding it away from a stick check by Brendan Smith. Kane settled the puck enough to rip it through the five-hole to make it a 2-1 game.

Johan Franzen was down on the ice behind the Blackhawks net after being rubbed out along the boards by Niklas Hjalmarsson. Play was not whistled dead and Kane’s rush was allowed to continue, just like when Stalberg was down and Gustav Nyquist’s rush was allowed to continue until he lost control of the puck.

Just over a minute later, the Blackhawks third line thought they had tied the game but the goal was quickly called off by referee Brad Watson. Andrew Shaw was ruled to have been in the crease and impeding Howard’s ability to play his position, despite not making any noticeable contact with the goalie or appearing to prevent Howard from playing Stalberg’s shot the way he intended.

The Blackhawks had a few more looks on the next couple shifts following the disallowed goal, but Pavel Datsyuk scored at 6:46 to extend the Red Wings lead back to two goals. Johan Franzen entered the zone and drew the defender Rozsival before dishing the puck to Datsyuk. He skated in and unleashed a laser wrist shot over the shoulder of Crawford. The shot hit the back of the pipe inside the net and bounced out so quickly that only the Red Wings forwards knew it had gone in.

The Blackhawks continued to push, with the likes of Toews, Kane, Sharp, and Hossa skating frequent shifts towards the end, but they were not helped by having to kill a couple penalties off down the stretch. Viktor Stalberg may have come the closest to giving the visiting team new life, but he drew iron after a huge burst of speed to pick up a loose puck saw him drive in all alone against Howard.

Game Notes:

- The Blackhawks penalty kill has now successfully killed off 29 consecutive powerplays during the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

- Plenty of hits (advantage Detroit, 28-22) and the most active game as far as the post-whistle discussions. The Wings dished out a beating around their net, with Jonathan Toews (7 shots) catching the brunt of it. Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell were also in the middle of a lot extracurriculars, each drawing a penalty in the final minute of the game.

- Faceoffs ended 37-29 in favor of Detroit, although that total looks closer than it did throughout much of the game. Toews finished 5-for-12 against Zetterberg while Marcus Kruger (4-for-12) and Dave Bolland (4-for-13) also brought down the team average.

- 3 Stars of the Game: 3. Niklas Hjalmarsson… 2. Drew Miller… 1. Jimmy Howard.

- Game 4 is Thursday at 7pm central.

Brad Gardner

In addition to the game wraps for TheThirdManIn.com, Brad Gardner covers the Blackhawks and serves as the Western Conference Editor at Hockey’s Future.

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