Red Wings win away from finishing off Blackhawks
Detroit Red Wings defenceman Brendan Smith takes a shot from Chicago Blackhawks centre Michal Handzus during Game 4 of the NHL Western Conference semifinal in Detroit, May 23, 2013. (REUTERS/Rebecca Cook)
The Detroit Red Wings had the upper hand. Now they have the Chicago Blackhawks by the throat.
With an opportunity to take a stranglehold in their NHL Western Conference semifinal, the Red Wings frustrated the Blackhawks on their way to a 2-0 victory and a 3-1 series lead Thursday.
The victory has the Red Wings on the verge of eliminating the Presidents’ Trophy winners with Game 5 of the series taking place Saturday in Chicago.
“The series is not over yet,” said Jakub Kindl, who scored the opening goal of the contest midway through the second period. “We’re happy with the two games we played here, but we know they’re not going to give up, they’re a great team. We know we have a hard game to play against them in their building, their building is going to be pumping.
“The series is definitely not over and we’re going to try and play the same way we did in the last two games here, be on our toes, be tighter in the neutral zone.”
Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard was outstanding in the victory, turning way 28 shots to record his second career playoff shutout. It was the first time this season the Blackhawks had been shutout.
Daniel Cleary added the second goal into an empty net.
“I thought we did an excellent job again tonight, we were a little bit slow out of the gate, but after the first period, we definitely turned up our speed,” said Howard. “I can’t say enough about the guys in front of me, they’re doing a great job, cutting them off and not letting them come in with speed. Another huge thing is that we’re taking care of the puck. We’re getting pucks out at our blueline and we’re getting them deep. That’s slowing them down a little bit.”
Howard made 14 saves in the first period, his best, turning aside Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp, who both had chances in all-alone. He then made a couple of big stops in the second before stealing the show in the third.
Howard and the Red Wings frustrated the Blackhawks all night, particularly Toews who took three consecutive penalties in the second period, one leading to Kindl’s goal.
While Toews was stewing in the penalty box, Kindl was able to blow a shot past Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford.
The goal was the Red Wings’ first power-play marker of the series and first goal the Blackhawks had conceded on the penalty kill this post-season. Up to that point, the Blackhawks had killed all 30 short-handed situations dating back to their opening-round series against the Minnesota Wild.
“We wanted to come home and play two good games and I think we did that,” said Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg. “We’re looking forward to the next game in Chicago. The fourth one is always the toughest one to get and we have to keep playing well.
“I thought Howie (Howard) played awesome tonight, without him we wouldn’t have won the game.”
In the third, the Red Wings kept things tight in their own end, limiting the Blackhawks to just six shots. However, they still needed Howard to come up big, particularly on Dave Bolland in front after Michael Frolik was able to get to a loose puck behind Carlo Colaiacovo and make a pass across the front of the net.
Moments later, Howard got some help from his goalposts as Michal Handzus hit the iron.
It was the second time Howard had some help, as Nick Leddy had drifted a knuckler earlier in the contest that also found the post.
The Blackhawks picked a bad time to lose three straight for the first time this season. Now, they’re going to need to win three consecutive wins to get past the Red Wings, who appear to be getting better as the playoffs go on.
“We've got to look at the small picture going home,” said Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville. “Look at one game and that's it.”