Johnny Oduya cruised into the slot, took a feed from Patrick Sharp and rifled a shot that caromed off the iron and into the Red Wings net.
The Blackhawks defenseman finally had solved goaltender Jimmy Howard during a breakneck-paced third period, and it sparked the Hawks to a 4-1 victory in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals Wednesday night at the United Center. Game 2 is Saturday.
Sharp had a goal and two assists, Marian Hossa and Marcus Kruger scored and Corey Crawford continued his mastery of the Wings with his fifth win over them this season — this time with a 20-save effort.
The Wings were held to Damien Brunner’s first-period score as the Hawks’ forecheck kept the Wings pinned in their zone all game. The Hawks finished with 42 shots.
“It’s a little scary playing in a tie game with a team like that, but I feel like good teams don’t change the way they play, they just continue to play the team system,” Sharp said. “That’s what we did and we were able to get a few in the third.”
The Hawks’ power play was not at its best during their first-round series against the Wild, with two goals in 13 opportunities (15.4 percent) over five games. It’s an area the Hawks concentrated on during practices leading up to Game 1 against the Wings, and the work paid an early dividend.
Hossa opened the scoring with his fourth goal of the postseason after Detroit’s Gustav Nyquist was sent off for hooking. It didn’t take the Hawks long to strike as Sharp held the puck in the Wings zone, then got it to Jonathan Toews, who found Hossa wide open in the slot.
The veteran winger ripped a one-timer past Howard to the glove side on the Hawks’ first shot of the power play.
With the crowd of 21,494 still buzzing, the Wings knotted the score on Brunner’s goal 1 minute, 54 seconds later. The forward knocked in a rebound of his initial shot past Crawford from in close.
In the second, the Hawks controlled the pace but couldn’t get another past Howard.
The Red Wings goalie stoned Dave Bolland on a one-timer from the slot and stopped Hossa from the top of the left circle.
The Hawks were buzzing throughout the period, and Wings coach Mike Babcock called timeout with 1:04 remaining in the second to halt the momentum.
Meanwhile, the Hawks’ penalty killers continued their torrid play, halting the Wings on all three of their power plays. That ran the Hawks’ streak to 20 consecutive kills during the playoffs.
Early in the third, Bolland broke in alone on Howard, but the Hawks center couldn’t tuck in the puck after getting the goalie down.
After Oduya broke the ice in the third, Kruger extended the lead when he shoveled in a backhander past Howard. Sharp capped the scoring with an empty-netter as the clock wound down.
“We had a lot of chances and I got lucky that one went in,” Oduya said.