Chicago came into the game having lost last night 1-0 against Anaheim and in a fight with Minnesota for the top spot in the Western Conference. The Red Wings made the unpopular decision to sit Anthony Mantha for a game but also welcomed back Jimmy Howard to the lineup. It did not start out well as Chicago got an early lead but the Red Wings dug in, found their game and on the backs of their top line beat the Blackhawks 4-2 in Chicago’s last trip to the Joe.
The game started like too many games have for the Wings this season, some back and forth early on and an early 1-0 deficit. Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane came in two on two with Dan DeKeyser and Mike Green. Recognizing the speed in from of them the Red Wings defenders backed off. Green did a good job of keeping Kane wide but DeKeyser gave up way too much space in the slot to Panarin who buried a really nice backhand pass by Kane on the Blackhawks first shot of the game. The Hawks seemed to get a bit of a jump from the early goal but Jimmy Howard and the Wings were able to keep them off the boards. Almost half way through the period, Dylan Larkin took a loose puck just past center ice and turned on the jets into the Hawks zone, beat Michal Rozsival wide and drew a hooking penalty from the Hawks defender.
The first minute of the power play was more of the same from the Wings, continued attempts to gain the zone followed by a pass or two and eventually a Chicago clear without even a hint of danger. The second half was a bit of a different story as the Red Wings, led mostly by Larkin, Mike Green and Andreas Athanasiou, skated into the zone and used movement to create a really good chance by Tomas Tatar on the doorstep that somehow Corey Crawford, despite laying on the ice, was able to save. The momentum continued to build for the Red Wings after the power play as Darren Helm found himself with the puck and a wide-open net as again Corey Crawford was down on the ice. This time it was former Red Wing Tomas Jurco with the play as he tied up Helm’s stick and prevented him dragging the puck past Crawford’s leg.
With just under five minutes to go in the period, Justin Abdelkader put a bad hit on Brian Campbell in the corner as he caught his square in the jaw with his shoulder and drew a charging penalty. Trevor Van Riemsdyk took exception to the hit (as frankly he should have), grabbed Abdelkader and the two exchanged a few words before deciding to use their fists instead. When it was all cleared up the Red Wings frankly got lucky as Abdelkader was only assessed two minutes for charging and five for fighting while Van Riemsdyk was given two for instigating, five for fighting and ten for misconduct. The Red Wings would take advantage of their good fortune as less than a minute later Gustav Nyquist put in some real good work battling to eventually get the puck back to Xavier Ouellet at the point who would fire a shot that may have hit a Chicago defender before beating Crawford short side over his blocker for a 1-1 tie. It looked like that would be the score going into the first intermission when the Red Wings found themselves in the Chicago zone with numbers after a nifty play by Tatar to drag the puck in onside with him then pass it one handed to Nick Jensen. Jensen froze the defense and Crawford before dropping it off to Athansiou who used a Tatar to fire a low shot past Crawford to give the Wings a 2-1 with just eight seconds to go in the period.
Another back and forth beginning to a period results in the first power play for Chicago as Luke Glendening tripped up Kane right in front of the ref. The Red Wings penalty kill did a good job keeping Chicago from setting up their power play and while the Hawks did get a couple shots there was nothing dangerous. Right after the penalty expired, Jimmy Howard made a real solid save on Marian Hossa to keep the Wings in the lead. Athanasiou would put Chicago back onto the power play with a hook on Brian Campbell. The penalty kill was strong again though as they continued to make it difficult to get the puck into the Red Wings zone. The Red Wings seemed to gain some energy from the penalty kill as they were really buzzing around the Chicago zone. That energy would pay off Henrik Zetterberg would force a turnover from Kane, Nyquist picked it up at the red line and used his speed and dangle to gain the Blackhawk zone before threading a pass between two Hawks to a trailing Zetterberg. His shot would deflect and hit Tomas Tatar in the chest and drop down to the ice where Tatar would fan on his first attempt before sliding one between Crawford’s legs for a 3-1 Red Wings lead. Chicago would answer back however as dump in to the Red Wings zone. As they have done so many times this season, the Red Wings lose the puck battle, Hossa gets the puck up to Van Riemsdyk who beats a screened Jimmy Howard with 44 seconds left in the period to cut the Red Wings lead to 3-2 after two periods.
Both teams came out with a little more speed and fire to start the period, no matter the records there is still a rivalry between these two teams and both wanted to win this game badly. Frans Nielsen, who quietly had a solid game as usual, broke in wide and almost beat Crawford low four minutes into the period. Kane would try the same move that set up the Hawks first goal but this time Jensen slowed him up enough to allow Darren Helm to knock the puck off his stick. Chicago looked very sloppy in their own end, turning the puck over several times and were fortunate nothing really materialized. Nielsen led a 3 on 2 with Abdelkader and Helm but after some tic tac toe passing Helm put the puck just wide. The push by the Red Wings continued as Larkin too the puck around the net and caught a glove/stick from Brent Seabrook in the face that put the Red Wings back on the power play. The roles would be reversed for the Red Wings power play this time as the first unit was able to set up in the zone, move the puck and actually got a couple good shots on goal. The second unit would have difficulty getting setup and spent the majority of the time digging for the puck or trying to get back into the offensive zone. Shortly after the penalty was over, Nick Schmaltz broke in on Howard courtesy of another good pass by Kane. This time Howard came up big to preserve the one goal lead. Chicago tried to ramp up the pressure but the Red Wings forwards were relentless and simply would not allow them to get anything going, often keeping them chasing pucks back into their own zone. With four and a half minutes left, Nyquist won another loose puck battle along the boards and got the puck to Zetterberg, who showed some old Z magic splitting a couple Blackhawks before dropping a pass back to Tatar who capped off a fantastic night for himself and his line by beating Crawford for a 4-2 lead. The Blackhawks would pull their goalie shortly after but Jonathan Toews would get called for tripping before they could do anything. Aside from Nyquist ending up with the puck on his stick all alone in front of Crawford and dangling himself out of a scoring chance nothing really came from the power play besides killing another two minutes from the clock
- All the Red Wings forward lines looked good tonight but clearly the top line was the top line. Tatar finished with two goals and an assist, Nyquist had three assists and Zetterberg had another two assists.
- I know Petr Mrazek is the Red Wings top goalie going into next season, as he should be, but there was something very calming about having Jimmy Howard back in net tonight.
- Some will be made over the Red Wings winning tonight as it could affect their draft spot down the road, but not me. There is simply no way I can be mad about the Red Wings sending the Blackhawks home from the Joe for the last time the same way they did for so many years while they were in the same division…with a loss.