CHICAGO – The Detroit Red Wings wanted to play a better game than the performance they turned in Game 1 against the Chicago Blackhawks.
They did just that Saturday afternoon at the United Center and now head back to Detroit with the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series with Chicago all tied up 1-1.
“They were a lot better than us (in Game 1) and skated a lot more and I think we just wanted to prove for ourselves that we could play a better game and we did,” said Henrik Zetterberg after the Wings’ 4-1. “When you start on the road you have as a goal to get one and we did that. We just have to move on and look forward to next game at the Joe. The fans were going to be great for us as it was in the first series. We’re looking forward to seeing them Monday.”
Game 3 is Monday at 7:30 p.m. at Joe Louis Arena.
“The biggest thing is we played for 60 minutes,” Jonathan Ericsson said. “We played for 20 minutes last game, (Jimmy Howard) saved us for a little while, but he can’t stand on his head the whole game. We know we’re going to give up some time in our zone, but we have to keep them on the outside and not in front of the net and that was the biggest thing that helped us today.”
Damien Brunner, Brendan Smith, Johan Franzen and Valtteri Filppula all scored for Detroit, while Howard needed to make just 19 saves.
Patrick Kane got Chicago’s goal and Corey Crawford stopped 26 shots.
“We wanted to skate,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We didn’t skate at all (in Game 1). I actually thought we were all right the first period when they didn’t skate the last game. When they started to skate we couldn’t keep up. This was a better game for us, obviously, we gave them less space.”
The win snaps an eight-game losing skid to the Blackhawks and now gives the Detroit home-ice advantage in the series.
“I don’t know if that makes any difference whatsoever,” Babcock said when asked about home-ice advantage. “They got a real good club. They’ve been good all year. We’ve got a real good club now. We haven’t been good all year. We just got better. So we kept getting better. We’re confident in our group. We think we can be in this series and we’re excited about the opportunity.”
Detroit also took Game 2 in its first round matchup with Anaheim before taking the Ducks down in seven.
“I think this is our best game of the playoffs,” Howard said. “What better time than to play it today. We needed to get a win here, get a split. The guys definitely responded after Game 1.”
Chicago’s only other loss this postseason game on the road in Game 3 in Minnesota.
“We went through lot of negative clips, but not in a negative way,” Babcock said. “We were just showing them we didn’t do what we do, we didn’t do what we were supposed to do, how can you be any good? I thought the guys responded. As soon as they saw it, they knew and they knew how we could be better.”
Chicago opened the scoring late in the first period, taking advantage of a blunder by Smith just outside the Blackhawks’ blue line.
Smith decided not to pinch and then had his stick lifted by Patrick Sharp which led to a 2-on-1 going the other way. Kyle Quincey slid along ice to break up the pass from Sharp, but the rebound went to Michal Handzus and he fed it quickly to Kane for his first goal of the playoffs.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a wake-up call,” Jonathan Toews said. “I think we know exactly what we need to improve on and do it right away. There’s no time to waste in the series and we know going into their building it’s going to be even more difficult than it was today. So, turn the page and make sure we’re better in Game 3.”
The Wings got the equalizer after some great work by the third line less than three minutes into the second period. Jakub Kindl softly flung a puck on goal that deflected off Brunner’s stick as he skated through the slot to beat an unsuspecting Crawford.
“We’re in the series now,” said Brunner after his fourth goal of the playoffs. “Our fans are probably excited waiting for us to come home. We’re expecting a good atmosphere at The Joe and hopefully we’ve got some wins for them.”
The Wings jumped in front 2-1 when Zetterberg swooped in as Niklas Hjalmarsson fell in the Blackhawks’ zone. Zetterberg dragged the puck below the goal line and fed a pass to Smith streaking in from the blue line for the one timer.
The goal was Smith’s second of the playoffs, coming late in the second period.
“We understood before the game that if we fell down 2-0 we’re done,” Kyle Quincey said. “This was a must win. Now we have hope and we like our chances at home. We just have to keep it going.”
Franzen gave the Wings a 3-1 lead after receiving a nice stretch pass from Jonathan Ericsson, blue line to blue line, sending the winger in and he snapped a wrist shot just inside the post over Crawford’s shoulder.
Filppula put the finishing touches on things, taking a drop pass from Zetterberg and using a pick from Daniel Cleary he backhanded a shot between Crawford’s pads.
“It’s important confidence-wise for those guys, but also I thought those guys really dug in today,” Babcock said of Franzen and Filppula. “If we can be gritty and determined on the puck and limit their space, then it’s series on. If we can’t skate with them, the rest of that stuff won’t matter. If you work real hard and play with good structure and you believe in one another, then it’s series on and guys will score some goals. If we don’t then it’ll be like Game 1.”