Detroit — That four-day break between games apparently did wonders for the Red Wings.
They returned to the ice Friday and swarmed the Chicago Blackhawks, winning 4-1, outplaying one of the NHL"s premier Stanley Cup contenders most of the game.
"All around, that was probably the best game we've played all season," goalie Jimmy Howard said.
Johan Franzen and Tomas Tatar scored second-period goals, breaking a 1-1 tie and sending the Red Wings to their eighth victory of the season (8-3-5, 21 points).
Luke Glendening and Brendan Smith (empty net) scored the other Red Wings goals.
Patrick Kane (power play) scored for Chicago (9-7-1, 19 points).
"I was concerned about the first 10 minutes but we came out and played pretty well," coach Mike Babcock said. "It was the first time in four or five games we looked fast. That was a positive. It's nice to look fast against a good opponent."
The Red Wings hadn't played since Sunday, when they lost 4-3 in a shootout to Tampa Bay. That game capped a stretch of five games in which the Red Wings were 1-1-3 and were plagued with poor starts.
That wasn't a problem in this game.
The Red Wings were the better team for much of this game. They outshot the Blackhawks 37-26, had the quality scoring chances and outskated one of the better skating teams in the league.
"We had a few days between games, got refreshed and started well," Henrik Zetterberg said. "We got bounces on our side and started well."
Jimmy Howard stopped 25 shots to earn the victory.
Smith's empty-net goal at 17 minutes, 51 seconds of the third period capped the scoring. It was Smith's second goal of the season.
The difference in the game was the second period, the Red Wings capitalizing on a bad Chicago turnover and a juicy rebound to break a 1-1 tie.
Franzen made it 2-1 Red Wings with his third goal in three games.
Zetterberg made the key play, intercepting a sloppy pass from Kane between the circles. Zetterberg shoveled a pass to Franzen charging the net, and Franzen backhanded a shot over Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford at 4:49, his fifth goal.
It was also Franzen's third goal in three games and his fifth consecutive game with a point. In those five games, Franzen has three goals and three assists (six points).
"Mule had his legs going," Babcock said. "When his legs are going, he's an effective player."
With the Blackhawks reeling, the Red Wings extended their lead to two with Tatar's fifth goal.
Joakim Andersson carried the puck into the Chicago zone and lifted a shot that Crawford turned away. But the puck went straight to Tatar, who buried a one-timer past Crawford at 5:59.
"We forced them into turnovers, got on a 3-on-2, good shot and I found the rebound," Tatar said. "We played real well. We need to play like this every night."
Glendening, who earned an assist on Tatar's goal for his first multi-point game, opened the scoring in the first period.
Again, it was a ghastly Chicago turnover which led to the Red Wings goal.
Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg put a pass directly on the stick of Drew Miller in the slot.
Miller's shot was stopped by Crawford but the puck went straight to Glendening, who slipped a backhander past Crawford at 6:08 of the first period.
"It's nice to chip in for sure," Glendening said. "You play hockey because you want to score goals and that hasn't happened a lot for us (on the fourth line). But it was nice to see it happen."
But the Blackhawks rallied, Kane tying the score at 11:16 of the period.
With Glendening off for interference, Kane scored his fifth goal of the season.
Jonathan Toews carried the puck deep into the zone and slid a pass across the slot to Kane near the circle.
Kane found a space high to beat Howard, tying the score 1-1.
But that turned out to be the only goal the explosive Blackhawks would score.
"They're one of those teams, you give them any sort of chance and they'll take advantage of it," Howard said. "We did a good job of just continuing to be heavy on them and wearing them down."