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Hawks beat Wings 4-2 to close in on playoff berth

by Dan Rosen
DETROIT -- There was an energetic pace to the Chicago Blackhawks' morning skate Friday. The mood inside their dressing room prior to the game against the Red Wings was, according to coach Joel Quenneville, "very businesslike, very focused, determined."

That energy and attitude foretold the story that would unfold in front of 20,066 at Joe Louis Arena.

Skating with the knowledge that they still controlled their own playoff destiny, the Blackhawks played like a team that desperately wants a chance to defend its Stanley Cup championship. They scored on their first shift and never once gave the Red Wings hope in a 4-2 win that kept destiny in their own hands heading into the final game of the regular season.

Dallas did its part in Colorado with a regulation win to stay in the Western Conference playoff race, but it doesn't change what the Blackhawks have to do. If they get just one point on Sunday against the Red Wings at United Center (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC, TSN) they will clinch a playoff berth.

"We're not worried at all what's going to happen with them," captain Jonathan Toews said of the Stars. "It's always been up to us. It's always been about how we prepare, how we play and how bad we want it."

The Hawks prepared like pros, played like a playoff team and proved they want it badly on Friday.

Brent Seabrook got them going with a goal on the first shot of the first shift of the game 27 seconds in, and before nine minutes had elapsed the Blackhawks were up 3-0 and outshooting the Red Wings' 6-1. Less than seven minutes into the second period it was 4-0.

Detroit scored with 22 seconds left in the second period and 1:20 left in the third, but it was all window dressing. It was the Blackhawks' night, as they won a game they had to have.

The regulation loss kept the Red Wings in third place in the Western Conference. Second-place San Jose can clinch second by beating Phoenix at home on Saturday.

"We knew coming into this game we'd probably have to get three out of four points," Patrick Kane told "We did our job, got two and hopefully we come back and get another two on Sunday."

Toews and Quenneville both said the Blackhawks' start was indicative of how they approached the game.

"You could tell in the locker room we were ready and we wanted it," Toews said. "We were all set to play for each other and get a job done. I think it's going to be the same thing Sunday. Having the pressure we're under now is definitely going to get us ready. We're not looking ahead to anything. We've got another job to do Sunday and we're going to go do it."

They definitely didn't get caught looking ahead on Friday. It helped, of course, that the Stars game didn't start until 90 minutes after Chicago and Detroit got under way.

There was no scoreboard watching. However, Dallas might have been -- and the Stars couldn't have liked what they were seeing.

Less than six minutes after Seabrook scored on a one-timer off a terrific diagonal cross-ice pass from Patrick Sharp, rookie forward Ben Smith got on the board with his first career goal in his fifth NHL game.

Kane set him up by knocking the puck away from Valtteri Filppula, who was trying to skate it through the middle of the Wings' defensive zone. The puck sprung forward to Smith, who was still in deep on the forecheck. He took two strides and fired a shot over Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard's catching glove.

"I don't know if (Filppula) thought I was going to skate by him, but he left it out there," Kane said. "One of the things we stress on this team is having good sticks and getting sticks on pucks and luckily enough I made a play there. It's not like I was passing to Benny, just trying to get it away from Filppula, but luckily Benny was right there."

Not three minutes later, Michael Frolik found Brian Campbell cutting through the right circle with a pass out of the corner and the Hawks' speedy defenseman did the rest, making a move to get around Howard before slipping the puck into the net at 8:45.

Chicago had its 3-0 lead.

"They did what they had to do. We made three big mistakes and the puck was in the back of our net," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "Their urgency was at a different level than ours. There's no excuse for us. They're playing for their life and we knew that before the game. We thought we were prepared and obviously we weren't. And, if you're not all in and not all committed mentally to what you're doing you're not going to be very successful. Obviously we didn't want to play like that tonight."

The Hawks' built their lead to 4-0 on Marian Hossa's breakaway power-play goal 6:44 into the second period. Seabrook found him with three-quarters length stretch pass that hit off Brad Stuart's stick before Hossa grabbed it and beat Howard.

Kane said that might have been the biggest goal of the night.

"We caught a lucky bounce, but getting that one to get some insurance, it was even better," he said. "It put us in a position where we were confident with where we were at."

They're still in that position heading into Sunday's finale.

One point is all they need.

"We're not going to sit on this and say, 'It was a heck of a game, it's been a hell of a season, see you later,'" Toews said. "We're adults. We're pros in here and most of all I think we respect and like each other so we're going to go work hard for each other. We're going to do the same thing on Sunday."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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