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Hawks move one point from playoffs after inspired win

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



DETROIT — The Blackhawks did everything they had to do Friday against the Detroit Red Wings to keep their playoff fate in their own hands.

Their start was overwhelming, their top players showed up on the scoresheet, goalie Corey Crawford was strong again, they were effective on the penalty kill and they even got some production from unexpected sources. It was a first-rate effort that resulted in a 4-2 victory.

But they’re not done yet.

That’s the Hawks’ line of thinking, even though the Dallas Stars continue to make their situation among the top eight teams in the Western Conference precarious. The overall message coming out of the Hawks’ locker room Friday is that the goal is to play the same way against the Red Wings on Sunday at the United Center. The Hawks need only one point to clinch a playoff spot.

‘‘We [were] going into these last two games assuming that [the Stars were] going to win out, pretty much,’’ Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. ‘‘We [had] to do the same thing. 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 whole scenario brought out the best in the Hawks, who were all over the Red Wings and forced turnovers early on. After forgettable efforts and moments in the last week or so, the Hawks finally played like a team that desperately wanted to be in the playoffs.

Brent Seabrook and Marian Hossa each had a goal and an assist, and Patrick Kane added two assists. Crawford, who assisted on Hossa’s goal, raised his Calder Trophy profile even further by allowing two goals on 28 shots for his 33rd victory.

‘‘You could sense it was a different type of approach going into the game — the meaning was there,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said. ‘‘It’s been there all year, but it just seems the urgency was in the guys’ faces.’’

That urgency showed up early, as Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp had a strong opening shift that led to Seabrook’s goal 27 seconds into the game. Ben Smith scored after Kane forced a turnover before Campbell made it 3-0 on a setup by Michael Frolik.

The Red Wings, who will be without injured Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall again Sunday, never really recovered. But a critical part of the Hawks’ victory was that they didn’t take their foot off the gas, which they’ve shown a tendency to do all season. Hossa scored on a power-play breakaway off a nice pass from Seabrook in the second period.

‘‘Sometimes it’s dangerous to have a lead like that early in the game,’’ Toews said. ‘‘It’s easy to think they’re just going to throw in the towel and give up. But they’re not that type of a team. We did a good job of just staying with it and making sure we finished up a solid 60 minutes.’’

The Red Wings got goals from Drew Miller late in the second period and Tomas Holmstrom late in the third, but the Hawks already had the game in hand. Jimmy Howard finished with 25 saves for the Red Wings, who managed only five shots in the first period.

‘‘We played strong defense, and our ‘D’ corps played really well, clearing pucks out of the slot,’’ Smith said. ‘‘They didn’t have many second- or third-chance opportunities. It was definitely a big part of the game. .  .  . It was definitely a big ‘W’ for us.’’

It will be a daunting task to handle the Red Wings again Sunday. The Hawks know that, too.

‘‘There’s so much to sort out,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘And there’s a lot of rooting interests going on, as well. The last game of the year has the makings to be a huge game. Let’s be excited about that.’’



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