Hawks win, but Wings secure point, fifth in West
Saturday, 04.07.2012 / 3:52 PMDETROIT
-- After it was all sorted out, the Detroit Red Wings
weren't all that disappointed with a shootout loss on Saturday afternoon and the rival Chicago Blackhawks
weren't elated with the win.
The two Original Six rivals only had bragging rights and positioning for next week's Stanley Cup Playoffs left to play for in the season finale for each team at Joe Louis Arena, but they played like much more was at stake.
Afterward, however, both were a little subdued by the outcome.
The Blackhawks (45-26-11) ultimately outlasted the Red Wings 3-2 in a shootout that was decided by Patrick Kane
's goal, but also coughed up a 2-0 lead in the third period and will start the playoffs in the sixth spot of the Western Conference with a long trip somewhere because they didn't win in regulation.
"Every time you play the Red Wings, for us it's a big game and the fans enjoy it," said Chicago star forward Patrick Sharp
, who assisted on both of his team's goals. "I don't think there's ever a game when a player goes out there and doesn't want to win and I think you saw the effort of the players on our team. We wanted to win that game."
Detroit did, too, but mostly wanted to get as much out of this game as possible in terms of playoff implications. The Red Wings could've finished in the fourth slot with a win and a Nashville regulation loss on Saturday night, but also had travel in mind while putting on a big late push in the third tie it.
Getting it to overtime, which Detroit did thanks to Tomas Holmstrom
's between-the-legs pass to Pavel Datsyuk
to knot it 2-2 with just 46.4 seconds left in regulation, earned the Red Wings (48-28-6) a big point to keep them ahead of Chicago in the standings and prevent a long flight to play either Phoenix, San Jose or Los Angeles in the first round.
"We didn't win, so we [don't] have much to celebrate either," said Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg
, who picked up a secondary assist on the game-tying goal. "If you look back, ever since we played [Nashville] last time, we knew [there] was a pretty good chance that was going to be the matchup. We almost had to go to the West Coast, so it's nice to get short travel."
The Blackhawks also wanted that fifth spot and the shorter travel. They nearly had it, too, if they'd made a 2-0 lead to start the third stand up. Instead, Johan Franzen
scored 8:11 into the final period to end Chicago's hopes of securing a shutout this season and bring Detroit within striking distance.
Both teams got some great goaltending to keep the game low-scoring, but the biggest reason for all those mixed feelings didn't start until a puck wound up on the blade of Holmstrom's stick near the front of Chicago's net after Detroit had its extra skater on the ice and its net vacated.
Holmstrom slid his pass to Datsyuk on the back side of the net and the Russian superstar buried it. Chicago's Corey Crawford
(30 saves) didn't have a chance to stop that one and was then pulled for the remainder of regulation.
"They made a pretty good play on that last one," said Crawford, who's been his sharpest down the stretch. "I think it was Holmstrom in front there, passes through his legs. That one felt like it was just going to be a nice win in regulation, but we've got to remember against that team they don't give up. They play the same way all game."
Both sides failed to end it in OT and it went to the shootout, which Kane and Crawford teamed up to win. Crawford didn't allow a single goal, while Kane beat Howard with a late deke to the forehand. The win bumped the Blackhawks' record against Detroit to 4-0-2 this season, which was a small consolation prize knowing they've gotten the best of their rivals lately.
There was a subdued celebration in the Blackhawks' locker room, which begged the question of whether they were more disappointed to lose the fifth seed or happy to beat their oldest rival yet again?
"It's a little bit of both," said Sharp, who picked up primary assists on goals by Viktor Stalberg
and Andrew Shaw
to lead Chicago with six points (two goals and four assists) against the Wings. "Giving up late goals like that with the empty net are killers, but I thought we had a couple of chances in overtime to end it. The guys were kind of chuckling at [Kane] with that shootout move. He and Datsyuk put on a pretty good show, but anytime you can beat this team in this building it's a good feeling."
That's because they did it twice in three games here this season after going 3-0-0 in this arena a year ago. Detroit also finished with an impressive 31-7-3 mark at the "Joe" this year and set an NHL record with 23 straight home wins.
"We just wanted to win the game, feel good, do the right things and play the right way before the playoffs," Crawford said. "I thought we did that tonight."
The Red Wings can't really say the same thing, after giving up the goals to Stalberg midway through the first -- his 22nd of the season -- and to Shaw with just 2:40 left in the second that gave the Hawks a 2-0 cushion.
Detroit almost scored a couple of times in the second, with Nicklas Lidstrom
hitting the corner of the crossbar and right post with a point blast during a power play, but couldn't get one past Crawford.
Meanwhile, the Red Wings penalty kill had to be sharp in order to kill off all six power plays that Chicago was awarded -- including a pair of double minors. Once again, however, it was a mixed bag of feelings for both teams when it came to their special-teams play.
They're both playing pretty well with fewer skaters, but also struggling with the man-advantage. Certainly, both coaches will focus on those areas in the practices leading up to the start of each team's playoff series, but the postseason itself is all the Hawks and Wings are concerned about now.
"We don't have to travel across the country, which to me is the biggest thing," Detroit's Mike Babcock said. "You know, when we're down 2-0 you starting thinking about [how] we might have to travel across the country. Every matchup in the League is tough. So, to me, the less travel you have the better off you are."
Chicago now doesn't have that luxury -- and still might not have injured captain Jonathan Toews
(concussion) for the start of the playoffs -- but the Hawks do have something teams need if they want to make a run at winning the Stanley Cup in June.
"Right now we have confidence in our team game," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Everything's going to be ratcheted up. We've got confidence at the right time of the year. Let's play with the emotion and continue to build on what got us here. [We've] got a lot of options, as far as who can play with who. Hopefully that depth can help us along the way."