DETROIT — Before their Western Conference semifinal series, Detroit Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said he believed special teams would be the difference against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Looks like Zetterberg knew what he was talking about.
The Blackhawks were perfect on the penalty kill this postseason — until Thursday night.
After going 0-for-12 in the first three games, the Wings finally broke through with one second left on the power play in the second period of Game 4.
Jakub Kindl’s shot beat Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford for the eventual game-winning goal at 10:03.
“I think well-deserved,” Damien Brunner said of Kindl’s goal. “We had some chances already last game, and it was kind of clicking. It was a nice shot from Kuba.”
After going 1-for-3 on the power play against a tired Wings team in Game 1, the Blackhawks are 0-for-9 since.
“I think we’ve been able to do some good things, disrupt them up ice and make it hard for them,” Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “We know that they’re so talented, all they need is once chance and the puck’s in.
“We’ve been able to do a good job there, I think. Millsie (Drew Miller) getting back in the lineup’s been huge for us.”
After missing several weeks with a broken hand, Miller returned to the lineup for Game 2 against the Blackhawks.
“We’re not getting enough pucks to the net,” Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp said. “We can look at it over the next couple days, but we’ve got to find a way to get that done. It’s as simple as that.”
With the Wings clinging to a 1-0 lead late in the third period, Kindl took a hooking penalty.
The Blackhawks couldn’t even get a shot on goal on the ensuing power play.
“Our PK was been huge and in the whole series,” a relieved Kindl said. “We know what kind of skill they have. Our PK was amazing (in Game 4).”
Last in the league early this season, the Wings’ penalty kill has come a long way.
“I think we’ve gotten better,” defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said. “I don’t think they’re creating as much, and the puck seems to stay out on the boards and doesn’t come inside as much. If Howie (Jimmy Howard) gets a shot, he deflects it out into the corner.”
Wings coach Mike Babcock credited assistant coach Bill Peters for the penalty kill’s improvement.
“Bill Peters runs our penalty kill, and started the worst in the NHL and finished 12th,” Babcock said. “He has done a great job with it . . . It has gotten better and better and better, and (Thursday night) I thought it was huge for us.”