DETROIT – The Chicago Blackhawks punched the Red Wings in the sternum Wednesday, scoring two quick goals and silencing the Joe Louis Arena crowd.
And just when it looked like the Blackhawks’ lead would snowball into a lopsided contest, the Red Wings, who weren’t in the mood to be punked for the second straight time by a former Central Division rival, began to counterpunch.
“I just feel we played hard. It’s not like we come off it that hard on Monday it’s just the teams we’re playing right now are so good, with the lineup we have if we’re not all in, all dialed in, there’s no chance to win,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said.
The Red Wings lost to the St. Louis Blues, 4-1, on Monday.
Patrick Eaves, who came into the night having potted just one goal in his last 18 games with the Red Wings this season, struck gold twice, tying the game two minutes before the first intermission, and then collecting his first career skills-competition goal to help lift the Red Wings to a 5-4 shootout win.
“Really? That’s good news then,” said Eaves when told of the statistic. “I felt fine. I didn’t feel tired out there at all. We were playing against the (Andrew) Shaw line and they have (Patrick) Kane on one side and (Brandon) Saad on the other side, so we had our hands full tonight.”
On both goals, Eaves fired high to beat Chicago’s 6-foot-2 goaltender Corey Crawford.
Eaves’ goal came as a delayed penalty was coming against Chicago’s Marian Hossa for tomahawking the stick out of Justin Abdelkader’s hands. Still, Abdelkader managed to kick the puck from the high slot to Eaves, who wired a wrist shot from the right circle that beat the Blackhawks’ goalie.
“I was shooting high glove there, but I wanted to get it off quick though,” Eaves said. “Fortunately it went in.”
“I thought our guys were really determined,” Babcock said. “It was Eaves’ group did a great job against (Jonathan) Toews, that’s our hard matchup with (Patrick) Sharp and (Marian) Hossa. And getting (Jonathan Ericsson) back made a huge difference for us matchup-wise and then I thought Glendening’s group did a real good job on Shaw and Kane and Saad and that allowed us to have success the guys played hard.”
The shootout went six rounds before Darren Helm scored the deciding goal. Todd Bertuzzi scored the other shootout goal for Detroit, while Jonas Gustavsson, making his first start since suffering a groin injury Dec. 28, made 31 saves through 65 minutes. He stopped Chicago’s last four shooters – Kane, Hossa, Marcus Kruger and Shaw – in the shootout to collect his first career win over the Blackhawks.
As for picking Eaves in the shootout rotation, Babcock said, “Let’s face it we haven’t done a lot of scoring this year in the shootout so anybody gets a chance and we just thought Patty had scored a goal in the game.”
Eaves was just as surprised as anybody that he was pegged to go second behind Tomas Tatar, who beat Crawford on his attempt but the puck stayed out of the net, striking the right pipe.
“Yeah, I was a little surprised myself, but fortunately it worked out,” said Eaves, who is now 1-for-5 lifetime in shootout attempts. “I wanted to get a quick, hard shot off high but he’s a big man and takes up a lot of space and fortunately he dropped his glove a little bit.”
Though they trailed 4-3 in the third period, the Blackhawks managed to avoid losing their first game in regulation after scoring first. They now own a 25-0-6 when scoring first in a game this season.
“Any time you play the Red Wings, it's going to be an intense game given the rivalry and what's happened in the past,” Kane said. “They're playing through some injuries and haven't had any luck as of late in that area, but it's still a dangerous team. Sometimes you get these young guys that come up from the minors, they want to prove themselves and prove they belong.”
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