For the second straight day, the Detroit Red Wings played a playoff-intensity game that went to a shootout.
Sadly, it ended the same way.
Patrick Sharp's goal in the fourth round of the shootout gave the Chicago Blackhawks a 4-3 win at Joe Louis Arena. For the Red Wings, it was the second straight day that a strong performance couldn't be closed out in the skills competition.
The shootout itself featured a pair of Detroit goals that were mind-boggling: Pavel Datsyuk had a soft shot from about 24 inches in front of Antti Niemi that clipped the top of Niemi's stick and went into the net, followed two rounds later by Todd Bertuzzi coming to almost a full stop, spinning around, and swiping a backhander past a completely frozen Niemi.
That was on top of an overtime period that featured 13 chances from both teams, unbelievable stops from both Jimmy Howard and Niemi. Which came after an intense third period that saw both teams with chances to put the game away after Patrick Eaves tied the game with 9:50 left.
Eaves also was involved in his first fight of the season: a slugfest between himself and Kris Versteeg off a faceoff that saw both players exchange hard shots until Versteeg landed an overhand blow that put Eaves to the ice, yet still drew screams of approval from the fans and slaps of the sticks from the benches.
The Wings also had to deal with five penalties (including Eaves's fighting major) in the first period, which led to Patrick Kane's 20th goal of the season, but no penalties in the rest of the game. The Wings were 1-for-3 when they had the man advantage on Blackhawk penalties in the second period.
Howard was solid again, making 26 saves against the second-highest scoring team in the NHL (behind the Washington Capitals, whom the Wings will visit Tuesday). And the Wings were able to put three goals on the board versus the stingiest team in the league.
But just like Saturday, the Wings just couldn't get the last ditch effort to put away a tough opponent.
The Blackhawks struck first, immediately after a two-on-one by the Wings. Cam Barker brought in the puck on a two-on-one, then put the puck right on Troy Brouwer's stick. He managed to get it past Howard to get his 14th of the season. Jonathan Toews picked up the second assist on the play.
Then, with Derek Meech sitting for hooking, Kane lit the lamp as his shot from 40 feet out threaded the needle and made it past Howard (who was screened by Blackhawks and Red Wings alike). It extended his team lead in goals to 20, as Brian Campbell and Brouwer each picked up an assist.
Fortunately, the Red Wings countered late in the first, taking advantage of a Blackhawks turnover in their end to have Henrik Zetterberg make a gorgeous pass to Datsuyk, who put the puck right on Nicklas Lidstrom's stick. Lidstrom didn't miss, netting his third goal of the season.
Then, while Sharp sat on a tripping call, Datsuyk made a magnificent pass to a flying Zetterberg to the right of Niemi. Zetterberg fired a wrister than went to the left of Niemi to tie the game. For Zetterberg, it was his 12th, with the second assist going to Brian Rafalski.
But the Wings would barely have time to enjoy it. Just more than two minutes later, Sharp knocked in a pass from the blue line by Duncan Keith that Howard nearly got his hands on, but couldn't. It was Sharp's 16th of the season, with Andrew Ladd picking up the other assist.
In the third period, the Wings knotted it up. Kris Draper won a faceoff and put the puck on Lidstrom's stick, who passed it across the blueline to Eaves. Eaves fired a 60-footer that caught Niemi going the wrong way to tie the game.
In the shootout, Datsuyk scored, Zetterberg missed, Bertuzzi scored, and Dan Cleary's shot was stopped by Niemi. For the Blackhawks, Toews scored, Kane's blast was saved by Howard, and Marian Hossa put it to the right of Howard before Sharp ended it.
Player of the game: Patrick Eaves. Not only did he tie the game in the third, his fight in the first period energized the Wings team.