The Blackhawks came up short against a dominant Jimmy Howard and the Red Wings in Detroit on Monday night, and now trail in their Western Conference semifinal series.
The Hawks came out more physical than they were in Saturday’s disappointing loss at the United Center, and coach Joel Quenneville was mixing his lines early and often. Brandon Saad played his best game of the postseason, splitting time between the top line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa and on the second line with Patrick Kane and Dave Bolland. Patrick Sharp shifted with Toews and Hossa frequently as well.
But the first period ended tied at zero.
Chicago started the second period attacking Howard. A Brendan Smith penalty gave the Hawks a man advantage less than one minute into the middle frame, and the Hawks put decent pressure on the Wings coming out of a failed powerplay.
But the game remained tied at zero.
At 7:49, Gustav Nyquist undressed Brent Seabrook and patiently waited for Corey Crawford to commit before putting the Wings up 1-0.
Only 31 second later, Drew Miller put a rebound into the back of the net to extend Detroit’s lead to two.
The final 13 minutes of the second period were dominated by the Red Wings; even with Smith taking another penalty late in the period, the Hawks were only able to put eight shots on net in the period.
With their backs against the wall entering the third period, the Hawks started the third period with a physical attack once again. They were able to kill off an Andrew Shaw penalty in the first four minutes, and Kane picked up a gorgeous pass over the top of the Red Wings defensemen and beat Howard to get the Hawks back in the game.
Moments later, it appeared the Blackhawks tied the game.
In the rink where Tomas Holmstrom and Johan Franzen have made their living with their backsides in opposing goalies’ faces, the refs ruled that Shaw interfered with Howard and waived off the would-be tying goal.
Replay showed that not only did Shaw not make contact with Howard, but the Wings’ netminder reacted to the shot getting past him.
There was no review.
And the game remained 2-1 in favor of the Red Wings.
Shortly after the non-goal, Pavel Datsyuk shot a missile over Crawford’s right shoulder to make the lead two goals once again. And, in spite of their battling, the Hawks wouldn’t get another puck past Howard.
And, as the third period continued, the Hawks started to lose their composure.
At 8:58, Michal Handzus went to the box for holding.
At 14:09, Duncan Keith went to the box for roughing.
At 19:00, after a few minutes of trying to mix it up with anyone that would step up, Bryan Bickell was sent to the box for cross-checking. It was Bickell’s second penalty of the night; he also spent two minutes in the box for unsportsmanlike conduct in the first period.
And at 19:40, Shaw was sent to the showers with a 10-minute misconduct penalty. For Shaw, it was his third penalty of the night; he skated 14:01 in the game, and registered 14 penalty minutes.
The only player on the Hawks’ third line not to make a mental mistake was Viktor Stalberg.
Toews was held off the scoreboard again. The Red Wings continued to harass the Hawks’ captain, getting in a whack after every whistle. To his credit, Toews was credited with a team-high seven shots on net in over 20 minutes of ice time, and was credited with three hits and one takeaway.
In Chicago’s net, Crawford stopped 27 of 30 shots and made a number of big saves, especially in a second period when the wheels appeared to be falling off after the Wings went up by two. Unfortunately, Crawford needed to have a perfect save percentage to earn a victory again on Monday.
If Chicago’s effort was questioned after Game Two, credit must be given where it’s due after Game Three. Howard was the star of the game, stopping 39 of 40 Chicago shots (officially). He has been the best player in the series, and the Red Wings’ lead is largely because of his dominance.
The series is far from over, but the pressure is on the Blackhawks to answer the bell in Game Four. The stupid penalties and turnovers need to be eliminated, and Chicago will need to find a way to beat Howard more than once to bring the series back to the United Center tied.
If the Hawks are looking for a spark, it might be time to consider Handzus taking a seat. While he did win five of eight faceoffs, he played only 7:24 in the game (the least amount of ice time for any Hawks forward). He was bumped to the fourth line, and continued to struggle against the speed of the Wings’ bottom six forwards.