Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard (35) throws his stick as Chicago Blackhawks left wing Bryan Bickell (29) and teammates Jonathan Toews, hidden from view, Marian Hossa (81) of the Czech Republic, and Michal Rozsival (32) of the Czech Republic, celebrate Bickell's goal during the third period of Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Western Conference semifinals in Detroit, Monday, May 27, 2013.
Photograph by: Carlos Osorio, AP
DETROIT -- Whatever faint stirrings of doubt may have been planted in the hearts of the Detroit Red Wings when they lost Game 5 in Chicago are now full-fledged palpitations.
After leading the National Hockey League playoff series 3-1 and blowing two chances to close it out, they may be the ones in need of resuscitation.
The Blackhawks, holders of the Presidents’ Trophy, are starting to play as if perhaps they didn’t win all those regular-season games by accident.
Down a goal and with all the momentum swinging Detroit’s way at Joe Louis Arena, the Hawks erupted with three in the third period — two of them after close but accurate judgments by the officials — then held on for a 4-3 road victory that forces a Game 7 Wednesday at the United Center in Chicago.
The other Western Conference semifinal between Los Angeles and San Jose will also go the distance — the Sharks and Kings play Tuesday night in L.A. — so the conference finalists could be running on fumes when that series starts on the weekend.
Monday was Memorial Day, but there appeared to be little memory of the rule book as referee Dan O’Halloran and Chris Rooney, uh, let the boys play. They spent two periods looking the other way on a series of hacks, whacks, high sticks and other crimes of passion in a game that featured terrific pace and momentum swings ... but the zebras got those two calls right.
Michal Handzus scored, 51 seconds into the third period, from close range to tie the game 2-2 and create instant energy for the Blackhawks, then five minutes later, Chicago’s Bryan Bickell swept home a Jonathan Toews’ rebound after a play at the blue-line that looked offside but wasn’t — replays showed Wings’ Johan Franzen brought the puck back into his own zone where Toews was trapped.
The correct call was also made on Michael Frolik’s penalty shot for the eventual game-winner at 9:43.
Frolik had blocked Carlo Colaiacovo’s shot and broken away cleanly but couldn’t get a shot off when he was slashed by the Detroit defenceman. The penalty shot was awarded, and Frolik beat Jimmy Howard neatly with a backhander high to the glove side, becoming the first player in NHL history to score on two playoff penalty shots.
Two seasons ago, he scored on Vancouver’s Cory Schneider in Game 6 of their first-round series, and Schneider famously cramped up on the attempted save and couldn’t continue.
That game also ended 4-3 for Chicago and it, too, forced a Game 7.
“I have a few moves and this is one of them,” said Frolic. “I tried some moves on Jimmy Howard before and they didn’t work out. This one I hadn’t tried, so I said, let’s give it a shot, and it worked out.”
The Wings took a 2-1 lead into the third period thanks to rookie Joakim Andersson’s long-range wrist shot — “a knucklepuck” in his own words — that fluttered past Corey Crawford’s catching glove and into the net midway through the second.
It was the kind of goal that is apt to cross another name off the already threadbare list of potential Team Canada goalies at the Sochi Olympics, and it came in the midst of a period in which the Wings completely turned the tables on the Blackhawks’ early momentum.
“I just lost it. I lost it. It’s a brutal one, obviously. I pretty much told myself, ‘It can’t get any worse,’ ” Crawford said. “Be strong. Stop the next one and move on from there.”
The Hawks were outshot 38-28 overall, and Crawford played a strong third period, despite Damien Brunner’s goal with 52 seconds left — with Howard on the bench for an extra skater — that gave the fans at Joe Louis Arena a brief thrill. But the Wings couldn’t get the equalizer.
“It was important we all kept our focus there from the goalie on out,” said Hawks coach Joel Quenneville. “Our team was fine heading into the third period. We regrouped and the team, with Crow, played a real nice third period. There was a lot of traffic, a lot of chances, he had to come up with some big saves late in the game.”
“He’s been unbelievable and he’s made so many good saves for us,” said Frolik. “That (Andersson goal) wasn’t a really good one, but for sure, we wanted to go get a goal for him and win the game for him. It happens, those kind of goals, bad bounces. I’m glad we were able to do it for him.”
Chicago had carried much of the play from the drop of the puck, and scored first, by Marian Hossa, after just 3:53, nine seconds into a power play created by a Jakub Kindl interference penalty. It was their third goal with the man advantage in two games, matching their output of the previous nine playoff starts.
But the Wings equalized, with 69 seconds left in the first, on Patrick Eaves’ rebound of a Drew Miller shot. It seemed to lift the weight of the world off the Red Wings, and for much of the second period they took back control, only to lose it abjectly in the final chapter.
The Wings have now given up 20 third-period goals in these playoffs (the Blackhawks have surrendered only seven), but Detroit coach Mike Babcock was more interested in the ones that ended up in the Red Wings’ net Monday.
“It’s not like they came in and squashed us. They got what we gave them tonight. The goals they got were gifts,” he said. “They gave us one — the Andersson goal was a gift.
“I thought we did tons of good things, made some young mistakes in the third period and they ended up in our net. In the end, we didn’t handle it, whether it be pressure or execution, late in the third.”
“I love Game 7s, I’m excited about it. We’ve got a chance to push them out of the playoffs, should be a lot of fun.”
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