Blackhawks score three in third for 4-1 win over Red Wings in Game 1
BY MARK LAZERUS firstname.lastname@example.org May 15, 2013 9:39PM
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Updated: May 16, 2013 9:34AM
The familiar anti-Detroit chants started hours before the game as the crowd gathered outside Gates 2 and 3 along Madison Street, continued through pregame warmups and spilled into the start of the first period — interrupted only by a sustained United Center-shaking roar through the national anthem.
A few hours later, they giddily spilled out onto the street still chanting, celebrating the Blackhawks’ best performance of the postseason.
Yes, the end got off to a heck of a start.
The Blackhawks scored three third-period goals and thoroughly dominated the Detroit Red Wings, firing twice as many shots on goal in a 4-1 victory in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals — the final showdown between the two bitter rivals before Detroit heads to the Eastern Conference next season.
“I thought that was probably our best game of the postseason so far,” said Hawks goaltender Corey Crawford, who made 20 saves while the Hawks peppered a game Jimmy Howard with 42 shots.
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville agreed, as the Hawks outshot the Wings 36-14 in the final two periods after shaking off the rust of a six-day layoff since their Game 5 victory over the Minnesota Wild in the first round.
And Wings coach Mike Babcock — who had hoped the extra day off before Game 1 would allow his team to “steal” a game at the United Center with a “grind-fest” of a game — could only stand there and watch as the Hawks forecheck kept the puck in the Detroit zone for seemingly the entire second and third periods.
“We didn’t put any pressure on them at all,” Babcock said. “It was a grinding game from our end, because we never got out of our zone. They were way quicker than us, and they executed better. … I didn’t think we were very good.”
It was standard Hawks-Wings fare — a spirited, speedy, spiteful affair full of end-to-end action, big chances, big saves and a few big hits. And perhaps no Hawks player gets up for Detroit games more than Patrick Sharp, who carried over his torrid pace from the first round with a goal and two assists in a virtuoso performance.
He set up the first goal of the game — Marian Hossa’s power play tally 9:03 into the first period — with an aggressive forecheck along the boards, freeing the puck for Jonathan Toews to feed Hossa in the slot. And eight minutes into the third period of a 1-1 tie, Sharp found a streaking Johnny Oduya at the end of a shift for a tiebreaking goal. After Marcus Kruger made it 3-1 a few minutes later, Sharp got a well-deserved empty-netter in the final minute — on his seventh shot on goal of the game.
“I just like playing against them,” Sharp said. “It’s a big game every time we play the Wings — it’s a meaningful game, and the crowd’s into it. I’ve got a lot of respect for those guys over there from taking a beating from them for a couple years, in 2005, 2006. I always want to make sure I play my best against them.”
He wasn’t alone. Dave Bolland made his postseason debut after missing the first round with a groin injury, and as he usually does in the playoffs, made his presence felt. He had four shots — including a breakaway that was stopped by Howard in the third with the score still tied — three hits, won 7-of-11 faceoffs on the third line, and got into a scrap with Justin Abdelkader.
Meanwhile, the Hawks killed off three more penalties, making that unit a perfect 20-of-20 on the season. It’s an impressive number — almost as impressive as the mind-boggling 30-0-4 mark the Hawks have when Sharp is on the ice this season.
With a disappointing, injury-plagued regular season — not to mention two straight first-round losses — behind him, Sharp is playing his best hockey at the best time.
“I wasn’t happy with the way things ended last year in the playoffs, and that’s something I carried with me all summer and lockout,” he said. “I was really looking forward to getting the opportunity to get back in the postseason.”
So far, so good. Of course, it’s just a start — the beginning of the end of this incarnation of the league’s longest-running rivalry.
But it was an awfully good start.
“It’s important,” Sharp said. “Every game is important, especially when you’re playing at home, you want to use the crowd and win those games. They’re a good team over there, they’re only going to get better, and the games are only going to get harder.”