CHICAGO -- It had been nearly eight months since the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings faced off in the regular season, but when they met on Friday night in the Windy City the wait was worth it.
The Madhouse on Madison was rocking and the teams took it from there. The Hawks ultimately won the first of six meetings this season 3-2 in front of 22,166 at the United Center, but the game was as close to a playoff-like atmosphere as you can get in the regular season.
It had big hits, big goals, big saves, a fight, a penalty shot and a couple of goalies bailed out by a goal post or defenseman a time or two. It also had Brent Seabrook continuing to do what he's done throughout his career against the Wings -- scoring the game-winner 1:52 into the third to break a 2-2 tie.
"I just buried my head and shot it as hard as I could," Seabrook said. "It was big. We always play them a lot every year. It's always a big rivalry for us, so it was nice to come out and have an effort like we did and get a big two points."
Seabrook can officially be called a Red Wings killer now, with 7 goals and 25 points in 42 career games against Detroit. However, it was goaltending, special teams and the play of both Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa that highlighted this game.
Corey Crawford picked up the win in net by making 26 saves, while Jimmy Howard (25 saves) took the loss for the Wings. Toews and former Red Wing Hossa each scored goals and put pressure on Detroit's defense all game. Toews scored his 21st of the season on a penalty shot in the first to tie it 1-1, while Hossa potted his 17th of the season to tie it 2-2 in the second for the Hawks (24-10-4).
"I thought Hossa and Toews were dominant for them tonight," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "That was the best line on the ice for sure. We got a real good night out of (Justin Abdelkader's) line and got a good night out of (Cory Emmerton's) line. The bottom line is we weren't good enough. That's it."
Abdelkader and Todd Bertuzzi each scored for the Wings (23-13-1), whose record on the road fell to 9-11-0. The Wings also took seven penalties to just two for Chicago, including three in the third while trying to tie the game. Two of those infractions were goalie-interference calls, including one on Johan Franzen with 5:43 left to play. Babcock, however, didn't criticize the officiating.
"I just looked at them (on replay) … they're penalties," he said. "I haven't been through the rest, but you take the penalties (and) you get killed. Those are offensive-zone penalties. What are you going to do? Can't take ‘em."
The Hawks wound up going 0-for-5 on their power plays, but the disruption was enough to throw the Wings offense off. Otherwise, it was a white-knuckler of a game that finished with each team putting 28 shots on goal.
An exciting first period started with a bang, literally, as Chicago's Daniel Carcillo drilled Bertuzzi in front of the Hawks bench -- knocking his helmet off -- and prompted a fight 9:11 into the game. Carcillo got in the biggest punch, but it was the Wings who got the first hit where it counts most: on the scoreboard.
Just 38 seconds after Bertuzzi and Carcillo went to the penalty box, Abdelkader scored his third goal of the season to make it 1-0 at 9:49 of the first. The Wings center, who manned the middle on Detroit's third line in place of injured Darren Helm, jumped on a loose puck out front and chipped it over a sprawled Crawford into the net.
It was Detroit's League-leading 25th time scoring the first goal in a game this season.
Chicago regrouped quickly, spearheaded by an impressive effort from its captain, Toews, whose top line started creating chances in bunches. A number of those plays came at the expense of the Red Wings' captain, Nick Lidstrom, who got whistled for two hooking calls in the first --including one that led to a game-tying goal.
Toews was awarded a penalty shot after Lidstrom hooked him on a breakaway with 5:28 left in the first and beat Howard through the five hole to knot it up 1-1. Howard said Toews' hard wrister can be overpowering, even if you know it's coming.
"I mean he fires it," Howard said. "He zips it there, but I thought I should've had it. That's his move to go five hole, so I was prepared for it. I just didn't get the legs closed fast enough. I've faced him a couple of times on penalty shots and that's what he does every single time, so I figured that's what he was going to do. I figured he was going to go five hole and he beat me. He's a good player."
Lidstrom was also called for hooking with just 17 seconds left before the first intermission, which allowed the Hawks a power play to start the second. Howard had to make a save with his mask on a hard point blast by Patrick Sharp to start that power play and then helped kill
the rest of it off to start the second.
The Wings had to kill yet another one off right after Lidstrom's expired, but that gave them momentum. Sure enough, about 1:30 after Jonathan Ericsson got out of the box for his holding minor, the Wings went ahead 2-1 at the 5:25 mark on Bertuzzi's goal.
Hossa made sure the Hawks weren't behind for long. He scored at 7:30 to make it 2-2 by stickhandling past Valtteri Filppula near the blue line, carrying the puck to the left circle and wiring a wrister past Howard on the short side.
"They had the lead on us both times there early, and getting it back was important," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "When they get up by two, they're as good as anybody with the lead."
From there, good goaltending and good fortune -- pucks hitting posts, plus a couple of outstanding defensive plays by Lidstrom -- kept it tied heading into the third. One of those plays was a save Lidstrom made against Hossa while blocking a wide-open right side of the net.
That could've been another momentum-swinging play, but Seabrook's goal to start the third pushed the Hawks ahead 3-2, scored off a one-time slap shot from the top of the slot. The Wings came close to tying it back up when Henrik Zetterberg rung a shot off the post with about seven minutes left, but another penalty not long afterward killed that momentum.