The Detroit Red Wings got good enough goaltending to win Game 1 in Chicago.
Jimmy Howard was everything they could have hoped for, withstanding a 41-shot onslaught, including stopping all 17 shots in the second period to preserve a 1-1 tie.
“I think Howie saved us, for sure in the second period,” defenseman Jonathan Ericsson told FOX Sports Detroit’s John Keating on the postgame show. “That was Chicago’s strongest period, I think, and our weakest, of course. We were lucky to have (it) 1-1.”
Howard finished with 38 saves while Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford only had to make 20.
But once the well-rested Blackhawks got going, the Wings had no answer for it, offensively or defensively, and the 4-1 final score reflected that.
“They’ve got good players, no doubt about that,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “We didn’t do a good enough job of the things we needed to do to have success.
“It was too much watching them play hockey. We need to do a way better job. Too many turnovers, too many mistakes. It just wasn’t good enough.”
To their credit, the Wings weren’t making any excuses about being tired after a grueling seven-game series against the Ducks and all the cross-country travel.
“I saw us practice (Tuesday) and we had no jump in practice,” coach Mike Babcock said. “I wasn’t surprised.
“I thought we hung in there in the first period, then we didn’t skate at all . . . We didn’t execute, didn’t play fast, didn’t put any pressure on them.
“You’re disappointed, not as much with the loss as you weren’t as good as you think you’re capable of being.”
The question is, were the Wings still exhausted or did the Blackhawks’ strong play make them look that way?
It was probably both.
The Wings will get Thursday off to rest and recover and then will practice at home Friday before heading back to Chicago for a Saturday afternoon game.
Howard will have to equal his Game 1 performance, and the rest of the Wings will have to get to his level.
“We got to take care of the puck,” Howard said. “We turned the puck over way too much at our own blue line.
“It seemed like we were almost out of own zone, and boom, they were having us right back in. (We need to) find a way to do a better job of getting the puck out.”
Captain Henrik Zetterberg believes that will require a full team effort for the entire game.
“It all starts with a good first pass,” he said. “If we get that, you get your legs going and you play in their end instead of them playing in ours.”
The Wings will also need to find a way to beat the Blackhawks’ penalty kill, now a perfect 20-for-20 in the playoffs and 3-for-3 against the Wings.
“We do get off the shots, but they do a pretty good job of staying in the lanes,” Kronwall said. “It’s hard to get the pucks to the net.
“We have to find a way because we have guys in there and get a greasy one.”
The Wings could have given themselves a much better opportunity for success in this series if they had found a way to win Game 1, but they know it isn’t over yet.
“We’ve been in this position before,” Howard said. “We were in this position last series. It’s one game.
“They definitely played better than us. Saturday we have to respond.”