In case they weren’t aware already, the Chicago Blackhawks now know they’re going to have to earn it if they want to get past Detroit.
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The Red Wings hammered home that message on Saturday.
Damien Brunner and Brendan Smith scored in the second period and Detroit beat the Blackhawks 4-1 in Game 2 to even their Western Conference semifinal series.
It was a strong response by the Red Wings after Chicago handled them easily in the series opener, 4-1.
”We’ve got a real good club now,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. ”And we haven’t been good all year. We’ve just gotten better.”
Their confidence got a big jolt after they knocked off the Presidents’ Trophy winners and avoided falling into a deep hole. It was another big win by a team that finished seventh in the conference, only to knock off second-seeded Anaheim in the first round.
Now, they’re even with a team that’s been rolling along all season and is eyeing its second Stanley Cup in four years.
”Both teams would be stupid if they thought they were going to come in here and either team win four straight,” Chicago’s Brent Seabrook said.
Just as the Blackhawks did in Game 1, Detroit took control in the second period and put the game away in the third. Now, the Red Wings have a chance to take the lead when this series between Original Six rivals shifts to Detroit for Game 3 on Monday.
”Overall, I think we had more energy,” the Red Wings’ Henrik Zetterberg said. ”We did a lot of the little things better than we did in Game 1 and when we got our chances we were able to put the puck in the net.”
Patrick Kane gave Chicago a 1-0 lead late in the first, but did things ever change after that.
Brunner tied it when he deflected a wrist shot by Jakub Kindl early in the second, and Smith gave the Red Wings the lead when he scored off a feed from Zetterberg on a 3-on-1 late in the second.
Johan Franzen made it 3-1 in the third when he fired a rising shot past Crawford after a perfect pass from Jonathan Ericsson in the Detroit zone. And Valtteri Filppula closed out the scoring with 7:57 left in the game.
That was enough for Jimmy Howard, who stopped 19 shots.
Crawford made 26 saves for Chicago and played well at times even though things got out of hand down the stretch. When it was over, coach Joel Quenneville insisted his faith in his goalie hasn’t wavered.
”Not at all,” he said. ”Across the board, we should all assume responsibility.”
The Red Wings were simply a step faster and were more physical in this one after the Blackhawks ran away from them in the opener.
”I think just by taking care of our own end first, making good plays, you end up playing a faster game that way,” Smith said. ”By taking away their speed, it helps out ours. You want to get a lot of contact on these types of teams, and it works out for us.”
The Blackhawks still struck first thanks to a lucky bounce after Detroit’s Kyle Quincey sprawled out to block a pass across the slot by Patrick Sharp that was intended for Kane on a 2-on-1 rush. The puck bounced to a trailing Michal Handzus, who immediately fed it to a wide open Kane in the right slot. He fired it into the net at the 14:05 mark for a 1-0 lead and his first goal of the playoffs.
About a minute later, with the Red Wings on a power play, Crawford made a nice save on Zetterberg before Pavel Datsyuk ripped a shot high off the right post.
Detroit tied it early in the second when a wrist shot by Kindl from just inside the blue line deflected off Brunner and past a screened Crawford, who didn’t even react as the puck went past him on the glove side.
But Chicago’s goalie had the fans chanting his name midway through the period with two great saves, stopping Zetterberg from the slot and sprawling out to foil Daniel Cleary on the rebound.
The Red Wings took a 2-1 lead with 3:52 left in the second after Chicago’s Niklas Hjalmarsson fell racing Zetterberg for a loose puck. Zetterberg then dished to Smith on a 2-on-1 rush for the go-ahead goal.
”He creates a lot of stuff, sometimes for both teams,” Zetterberg said in a nod to Smith’s struggles in Game 1.
There weren’t many mistakes by the Red Wings in this one. Other than Kane’s goal, they contained the Blackhawks’ stars and made it look easy over the final two periods.
”They kind of used our own style against us as far as holding onto the puck and keeping it away from us,” Kane said.
NOTES: LW Drew Miller was in the Red Wings’ lineup for the first time since April 20. He had been sidelined by a broken bone in his right hand. … F Viktor Stalberg was a healthy scratch for the Blackhawks, just as he was in Game 1. ”I don’t like changing too much, but we wanted to get (Dave Bolland) in our lineup,” Quenneville said before the game. ”It’s comparable to what we’ve done during season. But we’ll see. We can adapt and change at any moment.” … Quenneville on the early start: ”I think the guys, once they get in, they don’t mind playing in the afternoon.”