Blackhawks outlast Wings to take series opener
Chicago Blackhawks defenceman Johnny Oduya (27) celebrates his third period goal with teammates Patrick Sharp (10) and Michal Rozsival (32) as Detroit Red Wings left wing Johan Franzen (93) skates past during Game 1 of their NHL Western Conference semifinal playoffs in Chicago, Illinois, May 15, 2013. (REUTERS)
The Chicago Blackhawks didn’t want to let the Detroit Red Wings hang around too long in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal.
Going into the series as a heavy favourite, the Blackhawks knew the longer the Red Wings were in the contest, the tougher they were going to be to put away.
It turns out Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard had a similar thought, holding his team in the contest until Johnny Oduya beat him eight minutes into the third period to give the Blackhawks the lead en route to a 4-1 victory.
“That’s the funny thing about hockey, you can put up a lot of chances and feel like you’re going the right way, but all it takes is one play the other way or one bounce and that momentum would have slipped,” Oduya said.
“I think we kept at it, and getting that goal was important. But even the way we played after, we kept going, we weren’t sitting back and trying to protect that one goal, that’s why we won the game.”
Until Oduya’s goal, Howard had frustrated the Blackhawks, who kicked it up into another gear following an even first period.
Marian Hossa, Marcus Kruger and Patrick Sharp — into an empty net — scored the others for the Blackhawks, while Damien Brunner responded for the Red Wings. Howard finished with 38 saves, while Corey Crawford turned away 20 shots.
“Jimmy had to be good, we gave up too many opportunities, we made too many key mistakes,” said Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock. “Down the stretch, in the second period, they hemmed us in for extended periods of time. We didn’t execute very good, partly because of their quickness and partly because we didn’t skate well and didn’t move the puck very well. If you add the two together, it was a tough night for Howard.”
The win gave the Blackhawks the start they were looking for in the series, with Game 2 going Saturday afternoon at the United Center.
Coming in on close to a week of rest, it took the Blackhawk time to find their skating legs.
Not wanting to get into a track meet with the Presidents’ Trophy winners, the Red Wings were more than willing to slog it out through the first 20 minutes.
Hossa opened the scoring on the power play nine minutes into the contest on a shot from the slot. Just under two minutes later, Brunner tied it lifting his own rebound over Crawford.
In the second, spurred on by a pair of power-play opportunities, the Blackhawks turned up the temperature, out-shooting the Red Wings 17-5 in the frame.
However, they were unable to beat Howard, who made a handful of outstanding saves. His best coming against Hossa, who saw a shot labeled for the far corner snagged by the Red Wings goaltender and another kicked away from in tight.
“He’s an all-star goalie, he’s a great goalie and he made some key saves tonight,” said Hossa. “We just knew we needed to put pucks at the crease, there was no room for nice, cute plays because they were coming back so hard. We just needed to score some rebound goals.”
The third started the way the second ended, with the majority of the play in the Red Wings’ end.
Minutes after Dave Bolland was stopped on a breakaway, Oduya found himself in the slot and fired a shot past Howard.
Kruger added another minutes later, which put the contest out of reach.
“Jimmy was great, he’s done that all season for us, given us a chance to win the game,” said Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader. “They were dominating, but we were right there after two. It would have been great if we would have been able to get him something back after a great effort from him.”