Rivalry renewed: Blackhawks bring out best in Red Wings
DETROIT — The only bad thing about the Red Wings moving to the Eastern Conference is that they don’t get to play the Chicago Blackhawks as often as they used to.
Wednesday night was the first time the two teams had met since overtime of Game 7 in the second round of last season’s playoffs.
Those who braved the elements to get to Joe Louis Arena did not leave disappointed.
Wings fans were probably disappointed at first when the Wings fell behind 2-0 on early goals by Marian Hossa, the former Wing that fans still like to boo, and Andrew Shaw.
But this wasn’t the same lackluster team that bowed to the St. Louis Blues 4-1 Monday night.
The Wings fought back to a 2-2 tie on goals from Tomas Tatar and Patrick Eaves.
Eaves was the beneficiary of a unique pass from Justin Abdelkader, who slid to the ice and kicked the puck as he was without his stick.
"I got my stick slashed out of my hands," Abdelkader said. "I knew Patty was down there, I needed to get it to him. Obviously I can’t hand pass the puck and I didn’t have my stick. I guess it was kind of like a slide tackle move, like a kick, got it to him. Anytime Patty gets alone in front there, he’s gonna score more chances than not. He made a great shot."
Anyone remember when Eaves was sent to Grand Rapids earlier this season?
Wings nemesis Patrick Sharp scored six seconds into a power play in the second period to re-take the lead.
Undaunted, the low-scoring Wings goal goals from Kyle Quincey — yes, Kyle Quincey — and Gustav Nyquist to grab a 4-3 lead through two.
"Just scoring goals for us doesn’t come easy so anytime we get four, it feels good, for sure," Quincey said.
The four goals equaled the Wings’ previous four games total combined.
The way the game went, it was no surprise that Marcus Kruger tied it up in the third, forcing overtime.
In his first game back since missing nine with a groin injury, goaltender Jonas Gustavsson had to be on top of his game.
The Blackhawks had five shots in overtime, most of them excellent chances, and Gustavsson kept it even so the Wings could try their luck in the shootout.
Wings coach Mike Babcock picked Tatar, Eaves and Bertuzzi while Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville went with Jonathan Toews, Sharp and Patrick Kane.
Eaves, Bertuzzi, Toews and Sharp all scored, forcing more shootout rounds.
"I was a little surprised myself, but fortunately it worked out," Eaves said of being selected for the shootout. "I wanted to get a quick, hard shot off high. But he’s a big man and takes up a lot of space and fortunately he dropped his glove a little bit."
Finally, after three more rounds, Darren Helm, playing in his second game since returning from a groin injury, scored and Gustavsson stopped Shaw to end it.
"The teams we’re playing right now are so good, with the lineup we have if we’re not all in, all dialed in, there’s no chance to win," Babcock said. "So I thought our guys were really determined."
The Wings’ young players — Tatar, Nyqust, Riley Sheahan, Tomas Jurco, Luke Glendening — may not have as much experience, but they can bring energy.
"You know the other team is going to be excited when you play them in their building," Quenneville said. "We had a great Round 2 series with them. It was a big series being down 3-1, so you knew they were going to be excited about the challenge, and the guys that have been up from Grand Rapids work hard.
"They’ve got some skill and they’re relentless and they play the way the other guys play. It was workmanlike on their side and not so much on ours."
It’s the first time the Wings have beaten the Blackhawks in the regular season in the last eight tries.
"It was great, it was a fun atmosphere," Abdelkader said. "We always play these guys good and it’s always tight, really tight games, usually entertaining games because both teams get up and down the ice pretty well. It was fun, brought back obviously bittersweet playoff run for us. It was nice to, even though we went to a shootout, it was nice to cap it off with a win there."
The Wings make their only trip to Chicago this season March 16.
But Toews believes the rivalry is alive and well.
"I don’t think it’s going anywhere," Toews said. "Both teams still know what it means to play one another. It might add to it that we see each other less often. (Wednesday), it was maybe a bit of a slower start, but the intensity picked up. We saw the type of game that we’re used to out of them later in the game."
Now all the Wings need to do is treat their Eastern Conference foes the way they do the Blackhawks.
"I think it’s funny, we gotta get used to playing these teams in the East, especially all the top teams out West, we’ve played really tough and played really good," Abdelkader said. "Making the transition to the East is different, just different personnel and different teams.
"We’ll make that transition, we’re going to have a lot of games against Eastern Conference opponents coming up here so gotta get ready."