|DET Leads Series 3 - 1|
DETROIT -- The days of thinking this was going to be a rebuilding year for the Detroit Red Wings are over.
The days of thinking this was going to be an amazing finish to an incredible season for the Chicago Blackhawks -- well, those could be numbered.
Jakub Kindl scored a power-play goal midway through the second period Thursday night and Jimmy Howard made 28 saves, stealing Game 4 at Joe Louis Arena from the top-seeded Blackhawks in a 2-0 victory and a 3-1 lead in this Western Conference Semifinal series.
"I think we knew that if we played the way we did in the last two weeks of the season and the way we did in the Anaheim series [in the first round] that we would have a chance," Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "We need everyone. We need players to play good and it starts with the goaltending, and when he plays the whole team plays good. Still, it has been close games. ... We've had a little luck on our side but we've just got to keep playing."
The seventh-seeded Red Wings could finish a most improbable upset of the Presidents' Trophy winners Saturday at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS). After falling behind three times in the Western Conference Quarterfinals to the second-seeded Anaheim Ducks, the Red Wings have won five of their past six postseason games.
Chicago began this season with a record 24-game streak without a regulation loss. The Blackhawks lost only seven times in regulation in the 53 games (including a first-round series victory against the Minnesota Wild) before this series -- but they've now lost three in a row to the rival Red Wings, all in regulation, and have never won a postseason series after losing three of the first four games.
This is also the first three-game losing streak of any kind for Chicago this season.
"There's no use hanging our heads," forward Patrick Sharp said. "Our backs are against the wall. We have to play our best game in Chicago. There's no other options. We can dig in here. We can find a way. We ... for each other, for our team, for our city and find a way to get it done."
Kindl put the Red Wings in front with a power-play goal at 10:03 of the second period. Johan Franzen shot the puck from the right wall and hit it Justin Abdelkader in front. Abdelkader kept Niklas Hjalmarsson from clearing the puck by playing it to the left wall, then won a battle for it behind the net when Kindl sent it along the boards. Abdelkader left the puck for Pavel Datsyuk, who eschewed the simple stuff try from behind the net -- and deked Marcus Kruger out of position in the process -- before the puck worked its way back to Kindl, who shot it through a screen provided by Abdelkader.
It was Kindl's first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal. Defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo, who sent a D-to-D pass to Kindl, also collected his first point of this postseason.
"Biggest goal of my life so far," Kindl said. "There's not a lot of time out there so when I got it, I hesitated a half second. When the defenseman went down to one knee, I went short side.
"There was a great screen by [Abdelkader] and the goalie never could see."
The goal came with one second left on a penalty to Chicago captain Jonathan Toews -- the second of three straight penalties he took in the period. It also ended Chicago's perfect penalty-killing streak -- the Blackhawks had erased 30 consecutive extra-man chances to start this postseason.
Toews has not scored a goal in this postseason. He has been asked about it every time he meets with the media -- which, as the guy who wears the "C" on his sweater, is often.
He was visibly upset about two of the calls, and his physical battle with Zetterberg continues to be one of the highlights of the series. The two captains have jostled after the whistle on multiple occasions.
"I'm not going to say anything about the officiating," Toews said. "Obviously I disagree with the calls, but it's in the heat of the moment. They see what they see. I've got to be careful of my stick. That doesn't help my team, but I still think we played hard through it, found a way to stay in the game, killed off two big penalties."
Said Detroit defenseman Jonathan Ericsson, "We'd like to keep him in the box. He's not as good for them in the box."
Meanwhile, Chicago's power play remains a problem. The Blackhawks scored on their first man-advantage of the series midway through the first period, but the Red Wings have killed off 14 straight Chicago power plays.
The Blackhawks had three chances in this contest -- the first two for either team and then one in the final five minutes of regulation. What's worse is they put only one shot on goal with the man advantage -- and none during the final power play.
"I think we've been able to do some good things, disrupt them up ice and make it hard for them," Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "We know that they're so talented, all they need is once chance and the puck's in. We've been able to do a good job there, I think. [Drew Miller] getting back in the lineup's been huge for us."
In fact, after Howard corralled a point blast from defenseman Duncan Keith with 5:49 left in the third to get the Red Wings to the final TV timeout, the Blackhawks did not register another shot on goal.
"We played our tails off," Toews said. "We did a lot of good things. We just didn't find the back of the net."
Daniel Cleary added an empty-net goal with 38.2 seconds remaining to send the standing-room crowd of 20,066 into a frenzy.
The Blackhawks created several great chances in the first period. But just as he was in the previous two games, Howard was outstanding. He turned aside all 14 shots he faced, including top-level chances by Toews, Sharp and Patrick Kane.
While Chicago players were breaking in alone on Howard, those are all shots he can see. The Blackhawks had few chances near the crease during scrums, and second chances again were hard to come by.
"We had a nice 2-on-1 across there [in the third period for Dave Bolland]," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "That looked like a nice look. We had some other opportunities in the zone. I just think we've got to make sure we make it harder on him finding the puck with more traffic.
The Blackhawks dominated Game 1 en route to a 4-1 victory, but the Red Wings returned the favor in Game 2 with a 4-1 triumph of their own.
Game 3 was an evenly played contest, but one six-minute spurt from Detroit and the combination of a controversial no-goal call on Chicago followed by a world-class snipe by Datsyuk gave the Red Wings a 3-1 victory and their first lead in a series in this postseason.
"We knew they were going to play desperate hockey," Howard said. "They're going to play even more desperate on Saturday night. We're going to have to match it. We can't rest on our laurels here. We played good the last three games, we're going to have to ratchet it up even more Saturday night. The hardest win of the series is to get that fourth one. It's going to be another battle Saturday night."
The Red Wings, younger than they've been in a long time, continue to improve as this postseason moves along. For the Blackhawks, this is certainly not going according to plan.
"Eventually, something's got to give," Toews said. "We're too good a team. We've got too much talent. For as hard as we're working, something's got to go our way.''
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