May 21, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Gregg Krupa

Underdog Red Wings look like top dogs in taking 2-1 lead

Detroit -- Well, what do you think of the Red Wings now?

Clear underdogs in consecutive series in the Stanley Cup playoffs, they took a 2-1 lead on the mighty Blackhawks on Monday, with a big 3-1 win, having already dispatched the Ducks.

Four weeks ago, they were desperate to make the playoffs.


Remind me to check around their dressing room when they get back to work Wednesday, after a day off.

I need to look for a glass slipper.

Two good ones in a row

Their captain, Henrik Zetterberg, "made it plain," in a Motor City sort of way Monday morning.

"We have to find a way to play two good games in a row."

They did.

Their energy level was high. They skated hard, got to dirty areas of the ice and out-toughed and increasingly frustrated the Blackhawks.

Zetterberg is giving Jonathan Toews fits. Pavel Datsyuk scored a big goal in the third period to restore a two-goal lead.

Despite the Blackhawks outshooting them in the first and third periods, the Red Wings did not fold under pressure. Not even close.

They clawed, scratched and skated.

Besides, they are possessed of a very big eraser — all 6-foot, 205 pounds of him.

Jimmy Howard stopped 39 of 40 shots, including a five-bell save on Brandon Saad at 7 minutes of the first period, a 4-on-2 break at 7:00 of the second, and Patrick Sharp on a break-in at 4:20 of the third.

Howard saved 16 of 17 shots in the third, when play was manic and the game on the line.

It was the second playoff game in three years that Howard yielded fewer than two goals. And the Red Wings are 6-0 in these playoffs when scoring three or more goals.

Their backchecking was all vigorous, desperate pursuit.

They out-hit the Blackhawks, 28-22.

Justin Abdelkader had six, to go with his five shots. Drew Miller had three hits and was generally all over the ice.

Withstanding storm

The Red Wings had a good start in that they refused to get run out of the building, despite a Blackhawks team that was significantly more effective than in Game 2.

"I think we played the right way and we had a good start," Chicago coach Joe Quenneville said.

"I thought we had more play in their end. We didn't get slowed down in certain areas."

But between Howard and desperate defensive play by the Red Wings, they held the fort.

"It's just one of those things, they're a good team and they're going to carry the play at times," Babcock said. "I didn't think we played the full 60 minutes.

"I thought in the first period they had 15 shots. But I didn't think their team got anything done around the net.

The 70 percent to 30 percent advantage they had in faceoffs in the first period helped them maintain some territorial advantage, despite all of the Chicago shots.

Wings kill, kill, kill

Much has been made of the Blackhawks' perfect record killing penalties, so far in the playoffs.

But the Red Wings were 5-for-5 on Monday, and it kept them in the game.

Key kills on three penalties in the first and two in the second, including some that were ill-advised — Abdelkader holding a stick behind the Blackhawks net, 200 feet from his own, and a holding call against Brendan Smith.

But great work by Cory Emmerton, with his hustle and flailing stick; Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller with a lot of dogged skating; and Joakim Andersson, whose maturity short-handed is special, and others, along with the best penalty killer a team can have — its goalie — held the Red Wings in this one, when the Blackhawks could have taken an early lead, or tied the game after it was 2-1.

Secondary scoring

Much also has been made of the Blackhawks depth and secondary scoring, with third and fourth lines that rival the Penguins and Bruins.

But Gustav Nyquist and Miller put the Red Wings up 2-0 before the game was halfway over, and it was all Howard and the Red Wings would need.

Miller may be refreshed by having lost some time with his hand injury. He looks fast and he is determined.

Nyquist? Darting about, he collected his second goal of the playoffs to get the Red Wings on the board, assisted by his third-line mates Andersson and Damien Brunner.

Chief 'Hawk frustrated

Jonathan Toews whines about the officiating, in Game 2 — for two days.

Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw were so out-of-sorts and undisciplined late in the third period they were sent to the showers.

And, Quenneville complained after the game that a disallowed goal in the third should have counted because his players "didn't interfere with the goalie."

Coach, they did not have to.

"If an attacking player establishes a significant position within the goal crease, so as to obstruct the goalkeeper's vision and impair his ability to defend his goal and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed."

It may be frustrating, Coach. But no interference is required, by rule.

Joakim Andersson gives the Red Wings response with a tweak to the nose of Blackhawks center Andrew Shaw after the whistle is blown. / Daniel Mears/Detroit News