The Detroit Red Wings have followed a familiar script many times this postseason: Survive their opponent's best in the first, slowly take over the pace of play in the second and pull away with full domination in the third. Game 2 (RECAP | BOX) of the Western Conference finals against the Chicago Blackhawks looked to be by rote until the third period.
The first period saw the Blackhawks throw more at the Red Wings than they've seen in an awfully long time. They outshot the Red Wings 19-13 in the opening period and by those numbers alone you can tell that the first 20 minutes was more to the liking of the Blackhawks, style-wise. They even broke through and scored the first goal of the game. But the Red Wings hung in due to the goaltending of Chris Osgood, who was outstanding in stopping 18 shots and tied the game on the strength of a power-play goal.
Despite the 'Hawks' first-period flurry, however, they could not pile up a lead. Then in the second, they were checked into submission. The Red Wings held the puck for long stretches and the Blackhawks seemed to sag with the constant chasing and banging. Firing only six shots in this frame, sure enough, the Red Wings took the lead at the other end on another Dan Cleary goal -- his third of the series.
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks were following a script of their own: Bat a game back and forth, fall behind come back and ... ? Well, they forced overtime with a spirited third period capped by captain Jonathan Toews' second goal of the game. He and sidekick Patrick Kane were much more noticeable in this game and not just because of the goals. They created chances and were in and around Osgood with much more regularity than in Game 1.
Goaltender Nik Khabibulin was excellent in goal for the Blackhawks as well. Especially in the third period, Khabibulin made several sterling stops to keep the deficit to but one at the time. He gave the youthful legs in front of him time to recharge after their sluggish second and run wild once they had tied the game.
So, it was off to overtime where the Blackhawks had already won twice in this playoff run and the Red Wings had lost in their only extra-session affair -- a Game 2 triple-OT marathon against the Anaheim Ducks. Could the Blackhawks complete their script to perfection? Well, Mikael Samuelsson ended the drama five minutes into the fourth period, finishing off a 3-on-1 break that he started in the defensive zone. Valtteri Filppula froze Khabibulin before sliding a perfect pass for Samuelsson to whip home.
The play began when Samuelsson pressured Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell just inside the blue line. The high turnover in the offensive zone proved costly, as the Wings now lead the series 2-0. Cleary's goal was the result of similar high pressure by the strong-side winger. Cleary's first goal in Game 1 was also a break that began with a pressured turnover at the offensive blue line. Heading home, that is one area the Blackhawks have to tighten up. Their defensemen are important in keying the offense, but they can't turn the puck over at the Red Wings' blue line. Right now, the Red Wings are exploiting a perceived strength of the Blackhawks -- their young, energetic defense. They've turned both of those attributes against them and head to the Windy City with a home sweep in the books as a result.