by: Marc Valeri
With an overtime win last night, the Detroit Red Wings have put the Chicago Blackhawks in a 2-0 hole – and they aren’t even playing their best hockey.
Mikael Samuelsson played the role of hero just 5:14 into the first overtime, while Chris Osgood was a brick wall between the pipes, turning aside 38 of 40 shots.
For the most part of last night’s game, the Red Wings were unplayed, and fatigue may have played a part in that. The defending Stanley Cup champions played for the fourth time in a week, including Games 6 and 7 versus the Anaheim Ducks.
Detroit’s winner came on a 3-on-2 rush after Brian Campbell turned the puck over at the Red Wings blueline, sending Jiri Hudler, Valtteri Filppula, and eventually Mikael Samuelsson off to races. After some nifty tic-tac-toe passing and a nice shot from the slot, the series is headed over to Chicago.
Jonathan Toews tied the game at 2 with 7:40 left in the third. Toews also also opened the scoring in the first, but the lead soon evaporated when Brian Rafalski scored on the man-advantage. With Tomas Holmstrom providing a b-e-a-utiful screen in front of the net (and Johan Franzen in front of him), Rafalski slapped on at the net, and ‘Bulin didn’t even see it. Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom‘s assist on Rafalski’s goal was his 116th in the playoffs, moving him ahead of NHL legend Steve Yzerman and into first place on the Red Wings’ career list. He tied Larry Robinson for fourth among defenseman on the NHL list.
Dan Cleary, who’s been on absolute fire as of late, buried one to give the Wings a 2-1 lead.
Nikolai Khabibulin turned aside 35 shots in the loss. Moreso, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp were on line 3 and 4, something the Blackhawks will have to look at for Game 3.
Detroit has given up a power-play goal in a franchise-record 11 straight playoff games. It is the NHL’s longest streak during one postseason in two decades. In fact, the first two goals of the game were scored on the powerplay, and the final two goals were scored at even strength.
Detroit is trying to become the first defending champion to get back to the finals since New Jersey did in 2001. The Red Wings are the last team to repeat, winning the Cup in 1997 and ’98.
The fourth-seeded Blackhawks, playing in their first conference final since 1995, now have the daunting task of beating the defending champions in four out of five games to advance. Game 3 is Friday night in Chicago.