Chicago dominated the final two periods in its first game in the Western Conference semifinals since it won the Stanley Cup in 2010. Marian Hossa scored the opening goal, and Patrick Sharp had an empty-netter and two assists to give him nine points in the playoffs.
“I thought it was our best game of the playoffs, no question,” Sharp said.
Jimmy Howard finished with 38 stops in a terrific performance, but Detroit still lost to rival Chicago for the eighth consecutive time dating to last season.
The 75th all-time playoff game between the Blackhawks and Red Wings was tied at 1 after two periods
Chicago kept working and went in front to stay on a heady play by Oduya. He drifted in from the point and sent Sharp’s pass past Howard on the glove side with 12 minutes left.
“He sneaks in there, and it was a great play by Johnny,” Sharp said. “I saw him pinching in, I felt like he was wide open, and he called for the puck.”
Kruger then jumped on a loose puck and sent a backhander into the upper right corner to make it 3-1. That was more than enough for Crawford, who caught a break when Damien Brunner’s rebound shot went off the crossbar before Brent Seabrook swept it away with about three minutes left.
“Sometimes you got to get some breaks,” Crawford said. “Seabs came in there and he made a great play to clear it out.”
The opener of the 16th playoff series between the Original Six teams was the first game for Chicago since it eliminated Minnesota last Thursday. Detroit closed out Anaheim with a 3-2 win in Game 7 on Sunday night, taking the final two games of the series against the second-seeded Ducks.
Despite the long break, there was no sign of rust for the Blackhawks. And the Red Wings skated right with Chicago despite all that travel in the first round and the thrilling conclusion to the series against Anaheim.
This one was fast and frenetic from the start. Two similar teams more than familiar with the other’s style, energized by their first playoff meeting since Detroit beat Chicago in five games in the 2009 Western Conference final.
The Blackhawks struck first, taking advantage of the first power-play opportunity of the game. With Gustav Nyquist in the box for hooking, Sharp forced a turnover along the boards and Jonathan Toews sent the puck to Hossa, who one-timed it past Howard at 9:03.
Detroit needed less than two minutes to respond, tying it when Brunner poked in a rebound for his third career playoff goal. The rookie center also contributed three assists in the first round against the Ducks.
The Blackhawks killed off two power plays created by penalties on Andrew Shaw. They killed off another one when Nick Leddy was sent off for delay of game in the second period, making them a perfect 20 for 20 on the penalty kill in the postseason and sinking Detroit to 1 for 18 on power plays against Chicago, including the regular season.
After Leddy’s penalty, the Blackhawks controlled most of the action for a while. They had a 17-5 advantage in shots in the period. They just couldn’t solve Howard, who made a great glove stop on a wide-open Hossa with 6:39 remaining. Detroit also killed off two Chicago power plays to keep it tied headed to the third.