CHICAGO -- The way things worked out, it couldn't have been a better night to be a Chicago Blackhawks fan.
Those rooting for the Hawks among the 21,904 at the United Center on Friday night had all sorts of reasons to leave smiling. They cheered the Blackhawks, who downed the rival Detroit Red Wings 4-1 for their first win in three games.
It was also the Hawks' first win against the Red Wings since Jan. 17 of last season in Detroit and the first win against the Wings at the United Center since Dec. 20, 2009.
"When you play Detroit, you know every shift is going to be critical to the outcome," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "We had good focus."
So did their fans, who booed lustily -- as they always do when Detroit comes to town. They also released some pent-up frustration with one of their own, former Hawks defenseman Chris Chelios. He was booed before the game even started despite wearing his old No.7 Blackhawks sweater and being the Hawks' guest of honor on "Chris Chelios Heritage Night."
Chelios, 48, played nine seasons for Chicago and is originally from nearby Evergreen Park, Ill. What angered Hawks fans is how he stayed in Detroit for a decade and won two Stanley Cups with the Red Wings after Chicago traded him there in 1999. He also took a front-office position with Detroit after retiring last season.
Those are all issues that still eat at some in Chicago, but all Hawks fans went home happy after a night on which almost nothing went right for the visitors - including the Red Wings not drawing a single penalty.
"That was our best game in a few," said Hawks rookie goalie Corey Crawford, who stopped 29 of 30 shots. "We got out to an early lead. A lot of guys played well tonight and I think that was our best third period in a while, too. They didn't get much in the third, and we just shut them down."
Tomas Kopecky scored twice and Patrick Sharp and Bryan Bickell also connected for the Hawks (17-14-3), who built a two-goal lead after two periods thanks largely to Crawford's strong outing and a solid defense in front of him. Kopecky, a former Red Wing, got his second of the night into an empty net with 1:04 left to finish it off.
"We played a really good game and stayed out of the box," Kopecky said. "We made a couple mistakes, but we (covered) for each other and it was a great win for us. It was a good confidence boost for us."
Patrick Eaves scored Detroit's lone goal, while Jimmy Howard stopped 27 shots. Howard originally wasn't going to start, but Wings coach Mike Babcock was talked into it by his players - who wanted veteran Chris Osgood to wait for Sunday in Detroit to get a chance for his 400th NHL win.
Aside from that, Babcock was upset with his team's overall effort.
The Hawks are still without star forwards Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane and also played without speedy forward Viktor Stalberg. Coming off a three-game stretch in which they earned just one point - including back-to-back regulation losses to the Colorado Avalanche - Chicago played desperate hockey.
The Red Wings did not, in Babcock's assessment. There was only one power play in the entire game, and Sharp scored on it, Bickell then made it 2-0, and that was all the Hawks needed when combined with strong defense and goaltending.
"They got started, it was a fair game, (and) they played harder than we did for longer," Babcock said. "You need 20 guys to win, and we didn't have it tonight. With some of their injuries, they were more desperate and they looked more desperate. We've got nobody to blame but ourselves for this."
The Red Wings (20-8-3) have dropped two of their last three games but are still comfortably in the top spot of the Central Division. Meanwhile, Chicago came into the game last in the Central Division, 12th in the Western Conference and needed two points desperately.
"It was big for us to come out and have the effort we did," said Hawks defenseman Brent Seabrook, who finished with two assists and a plus-1 rating after struggling noticeably in the previous couple of games. "We did a lot of stuff well. We skated well. The guys worked extremely hard. Our sticks were in the right position all night. We had good backside pressure. It just seemed like tonight was as close to a perfect game as you can get."
Sharp's 18th goal of the season came after a hooking penalty to Jonathan Ericsson just 47 seconds into the game. He slapped a one-timer past Howard from above the left circle and the crowd was juiced. It was just Sharp's second goal and third point in the last seven games.
Fernando Pisani then fed a pass into the slot to Bickell just 3:28 later, and he wristed a shot past Howard for a 2-0 lead at 4:32 of the first. It was Bickell's fifth goal and seventh point in the past six games. He now has 9 goals and 17 points in 31 games.
"He's a big-bodied guy and he maybe gets the responsibility of checking," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said of Bickell. "Sometimes that role turns into some nice offensive chances and opportunities, and he seems to (have) a pretty good knack right now for finding the net. Seems like his shot has good pace and it's finding its way through."
The Wings didn't take long to cut into the deficit.
Eaves made it 2-1 just 27 seconds after Bickell's goal when he scored his sixth of the season by backhanding a rebound into an empty net after Crawford made a save on a blast from the point by Brian Rafalski. The scored stayed 2-1 after the first, but Kopecky pushed it to 3-1 at 11:22 of the second with his first goal in seven games and fourth of the season.
|PPG - Patrick Sharp (18) ASST: Brent Seabrook (16), Jonathan Toews (16)|
1 - 0 CHI
|Bryan Bickell (9) ASST: Fernando Pisani (4), Brent Seabrook (17)|
2 - 0 CHI
|Patrick Eaves (6) ASST: Jonathan Ericsson (4), Brian Rafalski (17)|
2 - 1 CHI
|Tomas Kopecky (4) ASST: Brian Campbell (9), Niklas Hjalmarsson (2)|
3 - 1 CHI
|EN - Tomas Kopecky (5) ASST: Jack Skille (8), Jake Dowell (9)|
4 - 1 CHI
|Jonathan Ericsson Hooking against Jack Skille|