CHICAGO – Just when it looked like Brendan Smith was going to be boiled, cooked, and tossed onto the barbeque for his first-period indiscretion, the Red Wings’ rookie defenseman bounced back to atone for his mistake that led to a Blackhawks’ goal.
“You’re always looking to redeem yourself after something like that,” Smith said. “Everybody is so good right now that you’ve got to wait for your chances. Fortunately, I was able to slide right into that position.”
Smith’s second-period goal was the perfect remedy for a young defenseman – who fair or unfairly – had come under an avalanche of scrutiny for his play in the first four periods of the Western Conference semifinals. He was the butt of much criticism following the Wings’ series-opening loss at the United Center on Wednesday, and it looked like he might be again on Saturday.
The Wings paid for Smtih’s aggressiveness when he tried to intercept a stretch pass at center ice. Like a cornerback jumping a passing route, Smith tried to intercept a Michal Handzus stretch pass to Patrick Sharp. Smith tripped and allowed the Blackhawks to complete their scoring play moments later when Patrick Kane scored his first goal of the postseason.
The long touchdown pass sent Sharp into the Detroit zone pretty much unscathed. From there, Kane electrified the home crowd with his 21st career playoff goal.
Defenseman Kyle Quincey defended the aggressive play made by his defensive partner saying, “You take what they give you, and that play was perfect for his skating ability. I always tell him to jump. I like to see him skate so he finally listened to me I guess.”
Smith added: “It seems like when Kane scored and (Sharp) out-battled me for that puck, it was so quick, so fast and it ends up in the back of our net. These things I’ve got to learn and make sure they don’t have to happen in the next games.”
However, Smith didn’t let his bad first-period play stay with him too long.
Zetterberg set up Smith’s goal that gave the Red Wings a 2-1 lead, their first lead of the series. The Wings’ captain out-raced Niklas Hjalmarsson to the puck deep in the Blackhawks’ zone. Once the defenseman fell, Zetterberg managed to cut in along the goal line. Clearly, the Blackhawks were more concerned with the dangerous Zetterberg, who drew in the defense before sliding a pass between Duncan Keith’s legs to Smith, who cruised in alone from the right point.
“It’s huge for my confidence and just for our team because it was such a big game,” Smith said. “I’ve always thought that Game 2 is huge, but I had some things to work on from last game and there’s still a lot of things that I have to work on. But hockey is a weird game and sometimes the bounces go your way.”
The Wings had a chance to make it a two-goal lead in the waning seconds of the period when they got a lucky bounce. As a Blackhawks’ defenseman tried to clear the zone, the puck hit a metal stanchion before ricocheting in front of the net where Crawford made a big save on Abdelkader’s shot from the low shot with 3.8 seconds left in the second period.
The Red Wings clearly had more jump in Game 2 than they did in Game 1 when they were out-shot 42-21 in a 4-1 loss. Through 40-minutes Saturday, the Wings held a 20-13 edge in shots. They finished with a 30-20 advantage.
Games 3 and 4 of the series will be Monday and Thursday at Joe Louis Arena with game times set at 7:30 p.m. EDT and 8 p.m., respectively. The series will return to Chicago for Game 5 next Saturday, though a time has not been set.
SNUFFED OUT: Chicago goalie Corey Crawford made a tremendous stop on Daniel Cleary to preserve a 1-1 tie with 9:13 left in the second period. The Blackhawks’ goalie made the initial save on Zetterberg’s shot from the low slot, but he couldn’t prevent the rebound from going to Cleary on the left side of the net. Cleary ripped a shot that was headed to the back of the net, but Crawford, who was on his side, flashed his left catching glove up in time to snag the puck out of the air.
Fourth line center Cory Emmerton also had a glorious opportunity on the Red Wings’ first penalty kill of the game. With under eight-minutes to go in the first period, Blackhawks defenseman Nick Leddy lost an edge near the Chicago bench as he skated the puck out of his end. Emmerton cruised in for the loose puck and fired a shot from the left wing that was stopped by Crawford
Minutes later, on the Wings’ first power-play opportunity, Pavel Datsyuk hit the left post that would have tied the game at 1-1. Datsyuk had three shots in Saturday’s win after going without a single shot in Game 1.
STRETCHING IT: Johan Franzen gave the Red Wings a two-goal lead at 7:19 of the third period. The play was made possible by a perfect stretch pass made by Jonathan Ericsson from his own blue line that sent the Mule in alone on Crawford. It was the Wings’ first shot of the period.
Valtteri Filppula finished the scoring for the Wings, collecting his second goal of the playoffs.
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose
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