Now in different conferences, the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks meet only twice a season. And given the fact that the Hawks were close to the top of the NHL and the undermanned Wings were trying to claw their way into the final playoff position entering Wednesday night’s game at Joe Louis Arena, that seemed like it might be a good thing.
But like the old saying goes, this is one rivalry where you can pretty much throw out the records. Like they always seem to do, this Blackhawks-Red Wings game was decided by a single goal, but not without some crazy twists and turns. Ultimately, the home team prevailed, as Detroit fought back from an early 2-0 goal and earned two super hard-fought points from their old rivals by prevailing 5-4 in a six-round shootout.
Tallies by Tomas Tatar and Patrick Eaves erased the vistors’ early lead before the first intermission, but Chicago got back in front at the 5:03 mark of the second period on Patrick Sharp‘s 26th goal of the season. The Wings answer came 77 seconds later from an unlikely source as Gustav Nyquist found Kyle Quincey in the slot, and the oft-maligned defenseman beat Corey Crawford high—a recurring theme on the night—to knot the game 3-3.
Nyquist put the Red Wings in front for the first time five minutes later, converting a Henrik Zetterberg feed from point blank range. Despite power play chances for both teams, that lead held up until 5:12 into the final frame, when a horrendous decision by Brendan Smith to pass the puck across the ice in his own zone found only Chicago’s Marcus Kruger. He whipped a shot past Jonas Gustavsson and the game was tied for the third time.
Though it wasn’t the best of nights for either goalie, both Crawford and Gustavsson held up down the stretch to send the game to overtime. Chicago nearly broke the hearts of the home fans in the closing seconds, but Gustavsson was able to keep the puck out of the net several times to leave the outcome up to a shootout.
Tatar’s leadoff miss was followed by four straight goals, including a snap shot by Todd Bertuzzi when the Red Wings were down to their last shooter. No one found the net again until Darren Helm zoomed in and wristed one past Crawford, and Gustavsson was able to deny Andrew Shaw to close out an exhilarating, mentally exhausting Detroit win.
The two points are sweet, of course, as they pull the Red Wings into a tie for the second wild card spot in the East. But not every two points are created equal, and these mean a little bit more coming against one of the league’s best teams, and an old and hated rival to boot.
Can Detroit build on a victory like this one and try to carry some momentum into the Olympic break? Will the extra playing time for younger players like Tatar, Tomas Jurco and Riley Sheahan pay off down the road?
We won’t know the answer to those questions right away, but for at least one night, the frustrations of a trying season were shoved aside by excitement at the Joe.
The game was over when…
Helm scored and Gustavsson made his fourth straight shootout save. The former wasn’t as tense as the latter, as Patrick Kane‘s third round attempt nearly slid across the line before the Monster found the puck with one of his long legs. Improbable? Maybe so, but Wings fans will take it.
The unsung Red Wings hero was…
It can’t be Tatar or Helm, because they played starring roles (with a healthy honorable mention to Eaves). So we’ll give the honor to Jurco, who got himself some chances and played a physical style that the young second line definitely needed to get itself some space.