DETROIT – The Blackhawks were looking for more pace, more of a strong start after some recent bad outings. They had plenty of both on Sunday.
Brandon Saad scored twice, including the game-winner, and the Blackhawks scored three times within 1:39 of the first period en route to beating the Detroit Red Wings 7-1. The Blackhawks are back up to a five-point lead over the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference, at least for now. Anaheim plays Columbus later tonight.
Dave Bolland also scored twice, although his first was more Wings defenseman Jakub Kindl, who inadvertently back-handed one past Jimmy Howard. Jonathan Toews had a goal and two assists and Michael Frolik had three assists. Nick Leddy scored his sixth of the season.
Corey Crawford, who admittedly struggled in his last game against the L.A. Kings, stopped 33 of 34 for the victory.
“We came back strong after another disappointing loss late,” Crawford said. “It just seemed like everyone was going. We were hungry around the net. It was just a great game and it started with our D men. They were cutting off everything at our blue line; great sticks, cutting off passes or dump-ins. They were making it hard for their guys to come into our zone.”
The Blackhawks had been struggling in recent games, mostly with their endings. But the beginnings weren’t so hot, either. They lacked pace, something that coach Joel Quenneville wanted when he practiced them on Saturday afternoon before coming to Detroit. He got it, in spades, on Sunday.
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“Great start,” he said. “We did a lot of things well. I liked the pace of our game; it was something I thought was off the last three or four games. This was representative of how we played on that last road trip: consistency, contribution from everybody. But it’s nice to get a quick strike like that off the bat.”
That quick strike came from Jeremy Morin, called up for his first game of the season, on his first shift, and the Blackhawks’ first shot of the game. Morin, part of a fourth line that was strong today, knocked home a loose puck in front for a 1-0 lead 2:33 into the first period.
“It was a good bounce. I just kind of buried it,” Morin said. “It was nice to get that one early to get the legs going. It got us going early, too.”
Indeed, it did; because within 1:39 of Morin’s goal the Blackhawks had two more, from Saad and Bolland, for a 3-0 lead. The Blackhawks opened the second much like they did the first, with quick strikes. Toews scored his 17th of the season for a 4-0 lead, and that was the end of Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard’s day. Eight seconds and a Jonas Gustavsson substitution later, Saad tallied his second of the day.
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“It’s huge for the team especially after the past two games,” Saad said. “We needed a bounce-back day today and we came through. It’s always nice to play with the lead and build on it.”
The Blackhawks looked more like themselves on Sunday. Granted, they were playing a Wings team with several injuries, including a late-scratched Henrik Zetterberg, who’s always a factor. But a rebound is a rebound, and it’s what the Blackhawks needed after some rough performances.
“Our No. 1 priority was being better defensively, and you saw our forwards come back really hard and support our defensemen. That helps them jump up a little more and challenge at our blue line when coming back on our rushes,” Toews said. “Getting pucks into their zone out of our zone, all those little things, just making it difficult for other teams to play against us. We did all that, we got our chances and we buried them.”