Maybe the Chicago Blackhawks just need to be on the brink to play their best. The Presidents’ Trophy winners have been down to their final game since falling behind 3-1 to the Detroit Red Wings, and were facing a 2-1 deficit headed into the third period of Game 6 Monday night at Joe Louis Arena.
That situation turned out to be no problem for the Hawks, who scored three times in an eventful third period to escape Detroit with a 4-3 victory and force a Game 7 on Wednesday night in Chicago. Michael Frolik scored the game-winner on a penalty shot, becoming the first player in NHL history with two postseason penalty shot goals.
The Blackhawks sapped some early energy from the JLA crowd by scoring the first goal less than four minutes into the game. That one came on the power play with Marian Hossa getting the best of a scrum in front of Jimmy Howard to notch his fifth goal of the playoffs.
Detroit managed to even the score before the first intermission when Patrick Eaves converted a rebound of a Drew Miller shot at 18:51 of the first. Joakim Andersson then staked the hosts to their first lead when his 40-plus foot shot knuckled and fooled Corey Crawford roughly halfway through the second frame.
Down to what could have been their last 20 minutes of hockey, the Blackhawks wasted little time answering the bell. A defensive breakdown in the Detroit zone led to Michal Handzus standing all alone with the puck in front of the net, and he patiently bided his time before beating Howard to the far side just 51 seconds into the third.
After Bryan Bickell‘s rebound goal at 5:48 put the Hawks up by one, Frolik pulled off an impressive play to earn his penalty shot – even if the call itself was debatable. Frolik blocked a point shot by Carlo Colaiacovo, then raced in on a breakaway while the Detroit defenseman scrambled to stop him. The officials decided Colaiacovo committed an infraction in the process, and Frolik made a sharp move to lift a backhand over Howard to make it 4-2 Chicago.
Five penalties in the final six minutes of the game led to plenty of 4-on-4 time, and the Red Wings took advantage of one of these periods to make things interesting again. Pavel Datsyuk slid a puck across to Damien Brunner, and his one-timer was on target for his team-leading fifth goal of the playoffs.
There were still 52 seconds to work with after Brunner’s tally, but even with Howard pulled and several icings by Chicago, there was no equalizer for Detroit. The Red Wings’ inability to hold onto a third period lead was unsettling but perhaps not surprising, as they’ve given up more goals in the final period than any other team that made the postseason.
Yet they’ll have to put that thought aside and try to get any lead on Wednesday to avoid a long summer of “What if?” regrets. The Blackhawks have survived two games with their backs against the wall, but will even home ice advantage help them make it three? The hockey world will be waiting anxiously for Wednesday to find out.
The game was over when…
The scoreboard showed a ’3′ for the period, apparently. The Red Wings seemed to have the momentum when they visited the locker room for the second time, but they must have left it there. Handzus’ goal was far too easy, and Bickell’s score momentarily took the crowd back out of the game. Detroit could have rallied from one down, but two was simply too tall a task.
The unsung Red Wings hero was…
No one. The award is forfeited after a third period like that.