DETROIT – Corey Crawford watched a fluttering puck get past his glove – a soft goal if there ever was one – and the Chicago Blackhawks looked as if they were in trouble against the Detroit Red Wings.
“I pretty much told myself it can’t get any worse,” he said.
It did – for Detroit.
The Blackhawks picked up their crestfallen goalie by scoring three times in the first half of the third period to beat the Red Wings 4-3 on Monday night and force a Game 7 in the second-round playoff series between longtime rivals. It’ll be Wednesday night in Chicago.
“We’ve got that momentum,” Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said. “We want to keep it.”
The Blackhawks got it when Bryan Bickell netted the go-ahead score early in the third, helping the NHL’s top-seeded team earn a shot to advance to the Western Conference finals after Detroit once led 3-1 in the series. The Red Wings also began the third period of Game 6 with one-goal lead and couldn’t hold on.
Michal Handzus tied it in the opening minute of the final period. Bickell scored about 5 minutes later. Michael Frolik’s backhander on a penalty shot at 9:43 put the Blackhawks ahead 4-2 and silenced the once-raucous crowd.
Chicago needed that cushion because Damien Brunner scored with 52 seconds left to pull Detroit within one. The seventh-seeded Red Wings pulled their goaltender, but they were unable to score with the extra skater.
“If I would’ve told Detroit and Michigan we would play in Chicago in Game 7, I think everybody would be excited about that,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I love Game 7s.
“We’ve got a chance to push them out of the playoffs. It should be a lot of fun.”
Detroit advanced to the second round after winning Game 6 at home and Game 7 on the road against second-seeded Anaheim.
“I think it’s nice that we’ve been through it this year in the first series and I think that helped our team,” Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “It will be easier for us to come in there and play loose and just focus on what we’re going to do.”
Crawford made 35 saves for Chicago and Jimmy Howard stopped 24 shots for the Red Wings.
The Blackhawks sent the series back to Detroit with a 4-1 victory in Game 5 on Saturday night, and then jumped in front on Marian Hossa’s goal in the first. But Patrick Eaves tied the game later in the period and Joakim Andersson put the Red Wings up 2-1 with a long wrister 10:11 into the second period.
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville made the first tactical move by starting Toews and taking him off the ice soon after the puck dropped to get him away from Zetterberg. But when the Blackhawks went ahead 1-0 on a power play, both captains were on the ice.
Toews won the first faceoff against Zetterberg after the penalty was called, and ended up with an assist on Hossa’s goalmouth scramble goal 3:53 into the game.
Eaves, who revived his career during the lockout-delayed season after having a concussion, scored for the first time this postseason off a rebound 18:51 into the first.
The Red Wings went ahead for the first time when Anderson had the puck, which was on edge above the left circle, and flicked a wrist shot that Crawford couldn’t handle.
“It was a knuckle-puck,” Andersson said. “It’s hard for the goalie to see those sometimes.”
Chicago got to the front of the net in the third period and it paid off.
Handzus was basically by himself when he scored 51 seconds into the third against a helpless Howard. And Bickell fought off Detroit defenseman Brendan Smith in front before scoring the winning goal, leading to Howard taking Smith’s stick and throwing it into the corner.