DETROIT – It really is just about getting into the playoffs if Wednesday night’s game between the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks is any indication.
The Wings beat the team with the second-most points in the league, 5-4 in a shootout, at Joe Louis Arena.
Detroit got shootout goals from Patrick Eaves, Todd Bertuzzi and Darren Helm to win the six-round skills competition.
Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp scored on the Blackhawks’ first two attempts before Jonas Gustavsson turned aside the other four shooters he faced.
“Who knows,” Justin Abdelkader said when asked where he was on the list of Wings’ shooters in the shootout. “A lot of credit goes to Monster. He would have like to of had that first one back, but Toews made a really good move on the first one and he’s a goal scorer. Sharp made a really good move on the second one. Then he closed the door from that point out.
“It’s a completely different feeling coming in after a shootout win rather than a shootout loss even though it comes down to a skills competition,” Abdelkader added. “It’s nice to get in the win column there.”
Detroit has won its last two shootouts to improve to 3-7 in them. Chicago drops to 5-7.
Patrick Kane could have ended things in the third round, but an extra effort from Gustavsson with his right pad stopped the puck from going over the line.
“I felt like I read him pretty good, but I guess the puck was still moving towards the goal line,” Gustavsson said. “I was happy I noticed it early. Usually when you thing you’ve saved it you sort of relax, but I saw the puck there and just tried to kick it out. It’s not something you practice. You have to act then react. It was nice to see it stay out.”
Tomas Tatar, Eaves, Kyle Quincey and Gustav Nyquist each scored in regulation for the Wings, while Gustavsson made 31 saves, including five in overtime.
Marian Hossa, Andrew Shaw, Sharp and Marcus Kruger scored for the Blackhawks and Corey Crawford stopped 27 shots.
“With our group once they got the first couple we knew we had to just stay the course because we had been there before,” Abdelkader said. “We were doing a lot of good things. It was big to get that first one then we got the second one shortly after. We made a lot of good plays. Confidence is big and hopefully we can use this to propel us here.”
The teams combined for four goals in a span of just over nine minutes in the first period with Chicago scoring the first two before the Wings answered with two of their own.
Hossa opened the scoring before the midway point of the period, being the benefactor of a shot off his left shin by Toews to beat Gustavsson.
Just over two minutes later, Chicago doubled its lead on a goal from Shaw, who was able to get enough of a loose puck in the crease to get it over the goal line.
Brandon Saad set the goal up gaining the zone and getting a shot on goal with Danny DeKeyser draped all over him. Gustavsson couldn’t get a glove on the loose puck that eventually got to Kane. He rang a shot off the crossbar and that’s where Shaw ended it.
Tatar got one of the goals back 27 seconds later, banging home a rebound off the pad of Crawford from a shot by Brendan Smith at the blue line.
Tatar did the work down low before feeding it to Smith for the one-timer for his 11th goal of the season.
Eaves got the equalizer before the end of the first period. Off a delayed penalty being called for slashing the stick out of Abdelkader’s hands, the Wings forward kept the puck in the Blackhawks’ zone by going down and kicking it to Eaves, who quickly clanked one in off the crossbar.
The goals didn’t stop coming after the first period, as the teams combined for two more in a span of 1:17 just past the six-minute mark of the second.
Sharp blasted home a power play goal, just six seconds into the minor for interference called on Drew Miller.
That was answered by a bomb off the stick of Quincey after taking a feed in the slot from Nyquist.
Detroit took its first lead of the game on some precision passing down low from the top line. Abdelkader backhanded a pass to Henrik Zetterberg, who quickly fed it to Nyquist for the easy stuff into the open goal.
“I got my stick slashed out of my hands and I knew Patty was down there and I needed to get it to him,” Abdelkader said. “You can’t hand pass the puck and I didn’t have my stick so it was kind of a slide tackle move, kind of kick and got it to him. Anytime Patty Eaves gets alone in front he’s going to score more often than not.”
The Wings had a golden opportunity to increase their lead with a four-minute power play with Saad in the box for hooking and slashing, but an interference penalty by Daniel Cleary ended the man advantage with 1:17 left in the second minor.
Smith then gift wrapped the tying goal for the Blackhawks, feeding a blind pass in the Wings’ zone to Kruger, who just gained the blue line. Kruger then snapped a wrist shot just inside the post to beat Gustavsson.