It wouldn’t be appropriate for the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks to meet for the last time as divisional rivals without at least a little bit of drama. Thanks primarily to goalies Jimmy Howard and Corey Crawford, the fans at the United Center got plenty of that on Friday night, including a shootout that went to the fifth round.
In the end, the Blackhawks got the last laugh, clinching the Central Division and finishing off a season sweep of the Red Wings in one fell swoop. Chicago captain Jonathan Toews scored late in regulation to send the game to overtime, and Brandon Saad scored the shootout winner to give the Blackhawks a 3-2 victory.
Chicago may have had a much easier win if not for some first period heroics from Howard, who was under fire early on. the Blackhawks had a number of scoring chances on two power plays in the opening ten minutes, but Howard turned away all 11 shots he faced in the opening frame.
Viktor Stalberg finally put the hosts up with his eighth of the season at the 6:11 mark of the second period. Howard made the initial save on a shot by Duncan Keith, but the puck made its way behind the net to Stalberg, who easily tucked it in on his backhand.
Yet the Wings would go into the locker room with a somewhat unlikely 2-1 lead. Johan Franzen tied the game at the 15:40 mark on the power play with a deflection that got by Crawford, and Cory Emmerton added his fourth goal of 2013 on a dogged individual effort two minutes later. Emmerton found a puck along the boards, then stayed with it after his first shot was blocked to lift a shot over Crawford.
Detroit’s 2-1 lead stood up for most of the third, but the Blackhawks got more and more chances as time got later. Eventually that proved to be the Wings’ downfall, as Howard fended off two shots from Michael Frolik but couldn’t prevent Toews from knotting the game up with just 2:57 left in regulation. The tally was Toews’ 20th of the season, a mark he has reached in every season of his NHL career.
Overtime blew by with no whistles, leaving the outcome up to a shootout. The Red Wings took the lead on Henrik Zetterberg‘s goal in the second round, but Marian Hossa tied it back up with a shot that hit both posts before going in. Neither team scored again until Saad put Chicago ahead in the fifth round, and Crawford was able to turn away the last gasp effort from Franzen.
The Red Wings will take the point but could have used two given the success of the teams chasing them in the Western Conference playoff race. Columbus and Dallas both won, and even though Phoenix lost, all three teams trail Detroit by just two points.
That makes the remainder of Detroit’s current road trip perhaps the most important one in decades. The Red Wings travel to Nashville to play the Predators on Sunday, then head to Canada for games against the Flames and Canucks over the next eight days.
The game was over when…
Damien Brunner couldn’t score after Hossa tied up the shootout. The Wings rookie has seen his goal scoring prowess hit the wall after a great start, and it’s depressing to see it happen to him in shootouts now too.
The unsung Red Wings hero was…
Gustav Nyquist, who didn’t get on the score sheet but was dangerous for chunks of the game. He made a nifty move to get by Johnny Oduya in the first period, but like most of the other Wings, found himself denied by Crawford.