DETROIT -- In a matter of minutes, the game turned from fun to frustration, and then everything fizzled for the Detroit Red Wings.
They left Joe Louis Arena on Sunday having pushed the unblemished Blackhawks close to the edge just to see them come back and hand Detroit a 2-1 shootout loss. That left the Wings with one point, and the Blackhawks with points in all 22 of their games.
"I don't think we were close to perfect," Henrik Zetterberg said, "and we almost beat them anyway."
Zetterberg characterized the Wings' start as "typical being on the west-coast, coming-home, first period. It's a lot of mental errors and the legs weren't really there, but we tried to keep it simple. We just wanted to survive the first period and I think we did and we got better as the game went. I think we made some really good stuff in the third, but unfortunately we couldn't get it done."
Jimmy Howard once again demonstrated he thrives on NBC, as he made 21 saves through 40 minutes while his teammates got their legs going. Howard made 45 saves when the Wings hosted the Kings in a nationally televised Sunday matinee last month; this Sunday, there was less work, but a more dangerous opponent. As Mike Babcock put it, in a competitive league, the Blackhawks are competing with no one.
One of their many young stars came through in the victory, as Patrick Kane followed up on his regulation goal with the only successful shot in the shoot-out. "He's a great player, he's got great skill," Howard said. "I didn't think he really had anything. I thought I was right there with him. It did go off my blocker, but I just didn't get enough of it."
Howard finished with 32 saves and a fond memory. "I always enjoy playing in these games," he said. "It's fun. It's like you're in a Monday Night Football game."
Neither Pavel Datsyuk, Damien Brunner nor Henrik Zetterberg could solve Corey Crawford in the shoot-out. Tomas Tatar was the only guy to do it in regulation, when he knocked in Joakim Andersson's pass at 2:43 of the third period.
With 2:02 left in the same period, Kane ensured the Blackhawks wouldn't fall in regulation when he fired in a quick pass from Viktor Stalberg. "Stalberg just got a stick in there when he went to clear it and got it right over to Kane," Howard said, "and Kane one-timed it."
The Wings were trying to become the first team this season to hand Chicago a regulation loss after the Blackhawks had gone 18-0-3 in their first 21 games.
"We thought we had an opportunity, it got away on us," Mike Babcock said. "It would have been a game we'd have loved to (win)."
The Wings didn't help themselves with a first period that saw them take two penalties in the first 10 minutes. Much as the penalty killers did extremely well blocking shots and keeping Howard's workload down, it also meant there was zero offensive movement going on in Chicago's zone. After 20 minutes, Corey Crawford had seen all of three shots, that's how little the Wings saw of the puck.
"They had it, they were quicker and better in the first," Babcock said. "I thought we were real respectful of them instead of just getting out and after them. Their D really skates, so if you're not being aggressive, not on top of them, you're going to spend a lot of time in your zone. They had the puck the whole time, and we chased it, for sure."
The Wings began surging in the second period and continued into the third as the Wings played much more with the puck. Their downfall came in the last couple minutes, when they twice shot the puck over the glass to earn delay-of-game penalties. Kane made them pay on the first.
"It felt like we're in good shape," Howard said, "then we take two penalties with two-and-a-half minutes left. Came back to haunt us."
From coming so close, the Wings just came away short.
"It was a fun game, the sort you looking forward to playing," Zetterberg said. "Unfortunately, we couldn't come out on the winning side
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