After earning a split in Chicago, the Detroit Red Wings had to feel they served notice that the top-seeded Blackhawks had a series on their hands. But after a testy Game 3 victory back home, it’s starting to feel like the Wings have put even more pressure on the team that was the NHL’s best during the regular season.
Two goals in a 31-second span of the second period were enough for Detroit thanks to a 40-save performance from Jimmy Howard, and Pavel Datsyuk added a spectacular insurance goal as the Red Wings took a 2-1 series lead with a 3-1 win at Joe Louis Arena. The game had more than its share of talking points and will set up what should be an even more intense Game 4 on Thursday night.
Howard was the story early on, as the Blackhawks proved they wanted to put a lackluster Game 2 performance behind them by out-shooting the hosts 15-9 in the opening frame. Detroit survived two Chicago power plays, and the Hawks continued their playoff-long shorthanded dominance by killing off one of their own.
The Blackhawks continued to pile on the pressure after the first break, but it was the Red Wings who struck first. After a defensive zone faceoff win by Joakim Andersson, Damien Brunner chipped a pass that hit Gustav Nyquist in stride. Nyquist made a nifty right-to-left move to lose Brent Seabrook, then out-waited Corey Crawford to fire his second goal of the playoffs into an unguarded net.
The very next shift provided the eventual game-winner. Chicago’s Michal Rozsival turned the puck over in his own end, allowing Patrick Eaves to get several chances from in close. Crawford stopped a pair of shots, but Drew Miller appeared just before the puck was cleared and jammed home a rebound to put Detroit up 2-0.
Both teams ended up with cause for complaint in a wild third period. A check from behind by Niklas Hjalmarsson left Johan Franzen crumpled in back of the Chicago net, but no call was forthcoming. That allowed Duncan Keith to flip a pass that bounced onto the stick of Patrick Kane in back of the Detroit defense, and he beat Howard five-hole to pull his team to within one goal with 15:25 to play.
It appeared Viktor Stalberg tied things up a minute later by throwing the puck at net and seeing it bounce in off of traffic, but the ref immediately waived it off, citing goaltender interference on Andrew Shaw. That questionable call – replays seemed to reveal that Howard was able to make an initial save and that Shaw didn’t touch him – turned devastating for the Hawks at the 6:46 mark, when Datsyuk unleashed a laser of a wrist shot that whizzed past Crawford up high to seal up the victory.
The closing moments did nothing to deter thoughts of a chippy Game 4, as Bryan Bickell took a late penalty and Shaw buried Carlo Colaiacovo with a clean but massive hit (but then was promptly shown the door with a 10-minute misconduct). Chicago coach Joel Quenneville deflected questions about a possible goaltending change to Ray Emery after the game, simply saying that Crawford was fine.
Much of the post-game talk centered around the idea that the Red Wings haven’t been in the underdog role for a long time. That may be true, but a Game 4 victory would put them up 3-1 and flip the series completely on its head.
The three-night wait to see if they can do it is going to be a long one…
The game was over when…
The Shaw call was followed by the Datsyuk goal. Whether you agree with the goaltender interference or not, you can’t deny that having the tying goal waived off took a lot of wind out of the Blackhawks’ sails. And the Magic Man showed again why even though he doesn’t put up gaudy goal-scoring numbers, he’s so dangerous with the puck on his stick. It was the second time this postseason that he’s scored a goal that was in and out of the net so fast you weren’t sure what happened.
The unsung Red Wings hero was…
It was shaping up to be Miller thanks to his excellent penalty killing work, but he removed himself from consideration when he netted the game-winner. We’ll give the nod to Cory Emmerton in his place, as he played a more understated role in that second goal and also logged plenty of PK time. Often he came on for Datsyuk immediately after a faceoff win and clear, which is definitely thankless but important work.