After a knuckling puck beat Corey Crawford from nearly 40 feet out, the Blackhawks returned to the ice for a third period with 20 minutes of effort standing between either the end of their season or Game 7 on Wednesday night.
A huge effort from the entire roster brought the Hawks back, and a 4-3 victory means there will be hockey at the United Center later this week.
Marian Hossa scored a powerplay goal to get the Hawks a lead less than four minutes into the game. The Blackhawks dominated the first ten minutes of the game, but the momentum switched ends of the ice and the Wings came back with a strong second half of the period.
A series of events started by a failed clearing attempt by Dave Bolland, followed by a failed box out by Bolland and a rebound off Crawford, ended with Patrick Eaves tying the game with less than 70 seconds left in the first period.
Detroit dominated the action throughout the second period. Crawford faced 18 shots in the middle frame, many of them in traffic and from within a few feet of the net. But it was a knuckling shot by Joakim Andersson from just inside the blue that beat Crawford half-way through the period that put the Hawks on their heels.
When the second period ended, the Hawks were trailing on the scoreboard 2-1, were getting out-shot 28-20, and were losing more faceoffs than they were winning. In fact, if not for a number of big saves from Crawford after the goal, the score easily could have been 3 or 4-1 in favor of the Wings.
Between the second and third, the energy changed.
Only 51 seconds into the third, Michal Handzus patiently put a puck over Howard’s right shoulder to tie the game. From there, the momentum was wearing a white sweater and the next nine minutes were breathtakingly dominant.
Bryan Bickell, who played another strong, physical game, scored his fifth goal of the playoffs from right in front of Howard at 5:48 into the period. Less than four minutes later, Michael Frolik blocked a shot and sprinted the other direction. Carlo Colaiacovo was called for slashing and Frolik was awarded a penalty shot, that he converted.
In less than ten minutes, the Blackhawks had turned a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead.
With five minutes left in the game, seats started appearing empty in the lower bowl in Hockeytown. The fans in Detroit made their way to the exits early, and almost missed an epic finish.
With Howard on the bench and the Wings skating 5-on-4 (Henrik Zetterberg and Hossa were in their respective penalty boxes), Damien Brunner scored with 51 second left in regulation. Johnny Oduya iced the puck with 30 seconds left in regulation, but a faceoff win and clear by Toews gave the Hawks breathing room to finish the game with a victory.
In the game, Crawford was very good with the exception of the Andersson goal. He made 35 saves against 38 shots in the game; Howard faced only 28 shots in the game, allowing four goals to the Hawks. Over the final 40 minutes, Crawford stopped 26 of 28 shots.
Andersson’s goal was exactly what keeps fans from believing Crawford can win a Stanley Cup for the Blackhawks. But the 30 minutes of hockey that followed should give those ready to run him out of town a moment of pause.
The harassment of Toews continued again, and the Hawks’ captain spent a couple minutes in the penalty box in the first period. But Toews showed his mettle in the game, battling back to win 12 of 24 faceoffs and added two assists.
Hossa also had a two-point night, adding the secondary assist on Bickell’s goal to his first period goal. He took a bad tripping penalty late in the third period, just a few seconds before Brunner’s goal brought the Wings back to within one.
The re-worked lineup from coach Joel Quenneville worked again. Brent Seabrook was back with Duncan Keith for a second straight game, and he once again looked like a completely different player (in spite of his minus-two rating). Both Keith and Seabrook skated over 23 minutes in the game, with Seabrook leading the Hawks with four hits. He was also credited with two blocked shots in the game, one of which was a huge sliding block of a Dan Cleary shot in the second period.
In spite of his terrible icing late in the third, Oduya had a strong night. He led all Blackhawks with 24:37 on the ice and four blocked shots in the game. Niklas Hjalmarsson blocked two shots and was credited with three hits as well.
The Hawks killed all three of the Wings’ powerplays in the game.
Game 7 will begin at 7 PM CT on Wednesday night.