With Lidstrom surprisingly sidelined with a lower-body injury -- he practiced Saturday -- Brad Stuart was a workhorse on the blue line, along with Niklas Kronwall, who was booed every time he touched the puck following his big hit on Martin Havlat Friday night.
Incredibly, it was the shorthanded Red Wings who cruised to a 6-1 victory in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals against the Chicago Blackhawks in front of a stunned 22,663 fans at the United Center.
Despite suffering from the injury bug, Detroit is now just a win away from a return trip to the Stanley Cup Final. The Wings can close out the series with a victory on Wednesday night back at Joe Louis Arena.
Coach Mike Babcock is hopeful he'll have Lidstrom and Datsyuk back for the potential series-clincher.
"I was in the cab on the way over here and I found out about Nick," Babcock said. "I hope to see him on Wednesday. He's a pretty good player. (But) I really felt our team was going to dig in. We had a lot of poise and urgency. At this time of year, it's all about will and determination and execution."
On Sunday, the Wings executed their game plan beautifully. Not only did they take advantage of their power play -- they went 3-for-9 on the day -- but the defense tightened up in Lidstrom's absence and limited Chicago's offensive chances. Stuart logged 26:38 of ice time, while Kronwall was out there for 23:16.
"I thought we did a great job of sticking with our game plan," Kronwall said. "We just tried to approach the game as we always do. I think it just made everyone come together even more. A lot of it has to do with the willingness to compete for each other. Everyone did their part. We were able to come out with the win."
Just like that, the Red Wings pulled the magic carpet out from these Blackhawks, who were feeling good about their chances with Cristobal Huet between the pipes. Huet, who replaced the injured Nikolai Khabibulin at the start of the third period in Game 3, looked more like the goalie who recently had more than a month off. The 33-year-old was pulled early in the second period in Game 4 after Hossa scored his second goal of the game to give Detroit a 4-1 lead. Touted prospect Corey Crawford replaced Huet, but Zetterberg made it 5-1 less than four minutes later.
While it seemed as if the Blackhawks were too focused on playing a physical game and failed to keep their emotions in check, Chicago coach Joel Quenneville didn't see it that way. He had a major issue with a roughing penalty that was called on Matt Walker at the conclusion of the opening period, which led to a power-play goal by Filppula at 1:13 of the second.
"I think we witnessed probably the worst call in the history of sports today," Quenneville said. "They ruined a good hockey game and they absolutely destroyed what was going on on the ice. Our guys were battling and competing. We'll find a way to fight through it, but it was that call … I've never seen anything like it."
The Red Wings fought through their adversity in Game 4. Despite missing two of the sport's top players, they still found a way to generate plenty of offense throughout the afternoon and managed to stay away from the rough stuff after the whistles.
"We don't get too excited when we score, we don't get too low when we let one in," said Wings forward Johan Franzen, who scored a huge goal with 20.7 seconds left in the first that gave Detroit a 2-0 lead. "We keep our emotions in check."
Indeed, it was all hands on deck. Even Ty Conklin contributed, as the Wings' backup goalie played the third period to give Chris Osgood (18 saves) an opportunity to recover from dehydration. Such a rout was somewhat remarkable given the fact that Datsyuk and Lidstrom were forced to watch. Detroit added to its lead in the third when Zetterberg tallied his second power-play goal of the game at 12:47.
"Players had to step up," Zetterberg said. "I think a big key is just to go out and make plays. They were coming with a lot of speed. If you execute that first pass, it's a lot easier. We did that today. We just have to stick it and play the same way in Game 5."
Red Wings defenseman Brad Stuart, who was asked to play more than 25 minutes due to Nicklas Lidstrom's absence. Stuart was a plus-2 and delivered three hits.
When Corey Crawford replaced Cristobal Huet 4:05 into the second period, it marked his first appearance for Chicago this season. Crawford, who entered with seven games of NHL experience, spent the entire 2008-09 regular season with Rockford in the American Hockey League.
Marian Hossa's shorthanded goal at 8:41 of the opening period was Detroit's first of the postseason.
You really have to wonder if Chicago can recover from this. The Blackhawks had a golden opportunity to even the series on Sunday considering Pavel Datsyuk and Nicklas Lidstrom were both out of the lineup with injuries. Instead, Chicago allowed the Red Wings to build a 3-0 lead, which proved to be insurmountable.
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1 - 0 DET
Wrist shot -
2 - 0 DET
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3 - 0 DET
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