DETROIT — As far as statement games go, the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks basically said the same things they’ve been saying all season.
For the Wings, they showed they’re still a work in progress.
For the Blackhawks, they showed they’re a cohesive group clicking on all cylinders.
The Blackhawks came into the game on a record-setting points pace to open the season, having gotten at least one point in 21 straight games.
Now you can make that 22 straight, with Sunday’s 2-1 shootout victory.
The Blackhawks tied the game at 1 with 2:02 to play on Patrick Kane’s power-play goal. Then Kane ended up with the winner in the second round of the shootout.
“It’s just pretty amazing,” Kane said. “We’ve talked about the resiliency of this team for the past couple of weeks or the past month. It seems likes we just keep finding ways to keep ourselves in the game or find a way to win it at the end.”
The Wings are now 4-4-4 in one-goal games while the Blackhawks are an incredible 12-0-3.
“It’s amazing,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “In a competitive league, they’re not making it competitive. They find a way to win. That’s depth and that’s skill. You got to give (Chicago general manager) Stan Bowman credit. He’s done a good job of retooling the roster. They’re no different than any other team that won the Cup. They had to get rid of players. The players they acquired have come of age.”
The Wings have a couple of players who seem to have come of age, but their growth has come because of injuries to players who were supposed to be playing.
Tomas Tatar and Joakim Andersson, along with Patrick Eaves, connected on the Wings’ only goal early in the third for a 1-0 lead.
“I hopped off the bench there and (Niklas Kronwall) saw me,” Eaves said. “It was kind of a foot race. I got on the inside track and kind of squeezed him (Nick Leddy) off and lifted his stick up and Andy got in there and threw it right out there to Tatar and he banged it in. That was a full line play for us.”
Tatar now has four goals and three assists in 14 games with the Wings while Andersson has three goals and three assists in 12 games.
“This is what we were trained for,” Tatar said. “We didn’t want to come here just to be part of the team and stand here. We want to do something, too. So if we get a chance to play we want to show the best we can.”
The problem is in this lockout-shortened season, there’s not enough time to get healthy and catch up to the streaking Blackhawks. The Wings have 24 points in 22 games while the Blackhawks have 41 in 22.
The Wings have just gotten Johan Franzen and Brendan Smith back from injuries, but then Valtteri Filppula went down.
Todd Bertuzzi, whose shootout skills were certainly missed Sunday, was not walking with a cane but certainly did not look healthy on his way out of the dressing room.
Darren Helm at least now knows that he has a slight tear in one of the disks in his back, which should heal — eventually. His speed has been missed, particularly on the penalty kill.
But time is slipping away while the Blackhawks run away with things.
The Wings could have won Sunday’s game. They could have started the first period better, instead of letting the Blackhawks dominate with a 9-3 shots advantage.
“Bottom line is they had (the puck), they were quicker and better in the first,” Babcock said. “I thought we were real respectful of them instead of just getting on them and getting after them. Their D really skates, so if you’re not being aggressive and on top of them they’re going to spend a lot of time in your zone. They had the puck the whole time and we chased it.”
The Wings could have avoided taking the two late third-period delay-of-game penalties, one of which resulted in Kane’s tying goal. But instead of the puck hitting the boards and heading harmlessly out of the zone, both Jonathan Ericsson and Kronwall sent it over the wall.
“I was caught against the boards and just trying to not get it stopped by the wall by their guy, I don’t think I’d be about to make that, even if I tried, out of 10 times, because the angles are not really there to get it over the boards but I don’t know, just what happens,” Ericsson said.
The Wings could have killed off the penalty, but the clearing attempt ended up on Viktor Stalberg’s stick and Stalberg found Kane.
“We flipped the puck twice out of the rink and we missed a key interception on the penalty kill,” Babcock said. “To me, it can’t happen.”
The Wings face the Blackhawks two more times — March 31 at home and April 12 in Chicago.
The Blackhawks showed that at least for now, they’re better than the Wings are and the Wings will have to get better to beat them.