DETROIT – The young Detroit Red Wings have made the mighty Blackhawks look vulnerable, beating them two straight times to gain an advantage in their last playoff matchup as Western Conference rivals.
Gustav Nyquist and Drew Miller scored 31 seconds apart midway through the second period, and Pavel Datsyuk restored a two-goal lead in the third to help Detroit beat the Chicago Blackhawks 3-1 Monday night and take a 2-1 lead in the second round series.
As good as the Red Wings have looked – scoring six straight goals to earn momentum in the matchup – their hard-driving coach isn't ready to celebrate.
"We haven't done anything yet," Mike Babcock said.
That's an understatement. If the seventh-seeded Red Wings keep playing like they are, the top-seeded Blackhawks will have a long offseason to wonder what went wrong in a season that looked like it was going to be special.
On Thursday night at home in Game 4, Detroit has a shot to put Chicago on the brink of elimination.
"It takes something like this to slap you in the face, so to speak, to really understand what adversity is and how tough the playoffs can be," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "A lot of guys in this room have been in tough positions before in the playoffs and that's never stopped us. We know this is a long series and we're going to be fighting until the end."
Chicago's chances will improve if Toews can end his goal-scoring skid.
He doesn't have a goal in nine playoff games, dating to last year. He matched Patrick Kane with a team-high 23 goals in the 48-game, lockout-shortened season.
Toews did have a game-high seven shots in Game 3, but Jimmy Howard and his backchecking, shot-blocking teammates wouldn't let him end his drought.
"I'm not going to let it get the best of me," Toews said. "I know I'm doing good things. I'm very confident that it's going to come."
Kane scored 4:35 into the third period to pull Chicago within one. About a minute later, the Blackhawks celebrated as if they tied the game, but Andrew Shaw's goal was waved off because he was in the crease.
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said he disagreed with the call that negated Shaw's game-tying score.
"He didn't touch the goalie," Quenneville said.
And Chicago's goalie, Corey Crawford, couldn't touch Datsyuk's shot 6:46 into the final period that went in and out of the net before he saw it. Crawford finished with 27 saves.
Howard stopped 39 shots.
Chicago has lost consecutive games for the first time in nearly 2 months.
The Blackhawks began the lockout-delayed season by setting an NHL record with at least a point in their first 24 games, ended it with a league-high 77 points and avoided having a three-game losing streak.
"The team is facing a little adversity and I am on a personal basis," Toews said. "Not going to let that stop us or me."
After a scoreless first period in a hot and steamy Joe Louis Arena, Detroit took a 2-0 lead with a pretty goal and a gritty one.
Nyquist patiently carried the puck from right to left and waited for defenseman Brent Seabrook and Crawford to sprawl out to make a shot before shooting the puck into the open net.
"He's real good at hanging onto the puck," Babcock said.
Miller crashed the net to stuff the puck into the net after Patrick Eaves got to his own rebound to keep pressure on Crawford. Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival started the sequence with a turnover in the Chicago end.
It was a sixth straight goal for the Red Wings, who lost the series opener 4-1 and gave up the first goal of Game 2 before going on to even the series with a 4-1 victory.
"They're a real good team and they're going to carry the play at times," Babcock said. "We're a good team and we're going to carry the play at times."