Chicago — The Red Wings managed a point against the best team in the Western Conference Tuesday, erasing a two-goal first period lead by the Blackhawks, but losing 4-3 in overtime.
Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith scored from the blue line on the power play to win it. The former Spartan’s shot went through bodies and into the back of the net behind Petr Mrazek, who faced 43 shots in the game and just one in the extra frame.
The Wings “did a lot of things well” as they often say after a loss and did again Tuesday. Given their performance this season, the point they garnered against the powerful Blackhawks, who have now won four in row and five of seven amid their close race with the Wild in the Central Division, seemed like a moral victory.
But the fact of the matter is the Red Wings lost ground to the Bruins, a team they are chasing for playoff position, and the Sabres, the team they hope to catch to climb out of the cellar in the Atlantic Division.
Boston beat the Blues Tuesday, and Buffalo beat the Flyers.
“There were some tough goals and a few mistakes,” said Henrik Zetterberg, whose stick was slashed out of his hands by the Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews as he broke free to the net in the third period, with the score tied at 3. No penalty was called.
“I thought we battled our way back, and overall it was a good hockey game.”
Zetterberg made clear, however, that the Wings quest for points will require more consistency than they have shown in the first 41 games of the season as they reached the precise half point Tuesday.
“We played OK. I thought we did a lot of good things,” Zetterberg said. “Now, we’ve just got to do it again.”
The Red Wings complained about a lack of power play opportunities, with the Blackhawks called for only two penalties and the Red Wings seven.
Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg discusses Wings loss in OT to the Blackhawks. Gregg Krupa / The Detroit News
Because some of the penalties were coincidental minors, the Wings had a grand total of nine seconds of power play time in the game, against the third-worst penalty killing team in the league and the second-worst at home.
The Blackhawks had 8 minutes 56 seconds with a man advantage.
Asked if he was slashed as he cut to the net – his stick, clear evidence, lay broken behind the net for long moments as the play continued – Zetterberg seemed bemused.
“Yeah, in front of the net,” he said, wryly. “The stick broke, so it was either the wind or slashed.”
The trend of only Red Wings penalties and Blackhawks power plays ultimately made the difference in the game.
It proved crucial in overtime, when Keith scored on a shot from the blue line on the power play with Justin Abdelkader in the box for boarding.
Abdelkader, who returned to the lineup after 16 game and tied for the team leads with four shots and four hits, said he believed he had basically brushed off the Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson in the corner, deep in the offensive zone, at 19:44 of the third period.
But the referees did not see it that way.
“I didn’t see the replay, but I just really tried to rub him out, there,” Abdelkader said, describing a more glancing blow than what the referees perceived. “I didn’t try to put him in the fourth row, or anything.
“He went down, obviously. The ref maybe thought he was hurt or something and called a penalty. I don’t know. It’s frustrating, you know? But, hey, we’re not reffing the game. We don’t make the calls. It’s unfortunate. It never feels good to lose like that with the power pay at the end.”
Three first-period penalties to Tomas Tatar at 1:44, Jonathan Ericsson at 8:11 and Mike Green at 14:14, stymied what seemed like a decent start for the Wings, who began by trading shots with the Blackhawks.
But the defenseman Brian Campbell scored his fourth goal of the season on the power play, at 10:04.
Just 26 seconds later, Richard Panik scored his 10th, at even strength, as the Red Wings defensive structure failed and Panik had an easy time of it against Mrazek.
But the Red Wings were a different team in the second period, when they outshot the Blackhawks, 20-11.
They also got all three of their goals, from Andreas Athanasiou (eighth) at 1:37, Tatar (ninth) at 9:09 and Luke Glendening (second) at 19:41.
When Athanasiou scored to put the Wings back in the game and start their comeback, the players’ fathers who are accompanying them on the brief road trip exploded with cheers.
Chicago's Tanner Kero scored his first goal of the season, at 18:18 in the second, before a crazy scramble in the Blackhawks’ crease in front of Corey Crawford, with Glendening and Drew Miller pressing the issue, resulted in the Wings third goal.
Dylan Larkin missed a few shifts in the third period, with Zetterberg suddenly double-shifting.
After the game, Jeff Blashill said that Larkin was not injured.
He had assisted on Tatar’s goal for his fifth helper of the season.