DETROIT, Michigan -- Henrik Zetterberg set a pretty high standard for the Red Wings' players returning from injury with three points in his first game back, but Steve Yzerman, Ray Whitney, and Manny Legace were up for the challenge. Whitney had a goal, Yzerman had an assist, and Legace made 28 saves on 30 shots to give the Red Wings a 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks came out roaring to start the game, while the Red Wings looked rather sluggish through the first twenty minutes of play""-everyone except Legace, that is. Chicago outshot Detroit by 17 to 3 in the first period, but Legace made some outstanding saves. Legace, returning a little earlier from his knee injury than he might have due to Curtis Joseph's bout of influenza, didn't mind the extra work. "It was great," he said. "It got me into the game early."
The one goal Chicago did get through in the first period came on the power play, with Darryl Bootland in the penalty box for hooking. Brett McLean dragged the puck out of the right corner towards the front of the net. He tripped over Mathieu Dandenaut as he crossed the goal crease, but still got the shot away. Legace, a little tangled up in Dandenault's skates, was not able to slide to his right goalpost in time to make the save.
Whitney tied the game up before the end of the period with Detroit's second shot of the game. Jiri Fischer sent a hard pass from the blue line towards the net. The puck deflected just slightly off the leg of a Chicago player, but still made it to Whitney all alone near the right side of the net. He easily flipped it over goalie Steve Passmore.
The Blackhawks, with all the effort they had put in, were not happy to go into the locker room with only one goal to show for it. "To come out of that period and not be a couple of goals ahead was tough," said Nathan Dempsey. "We knew they were going to pick it up in the second period."
Dempsey was right""-the Red Wings looked like a much livelier team in the second period, and they began to apply a great deal of offensive pressure to Chicago. They were rewarded with a go-ahead goal late in the period. Yzerman kicked the puck away from a defending Blackhawk, then passed it behind the net to Zetterberg. Zetterberg one-timed a centering pass, and Brendan Shanahan was moving up through the slot, winding up in just the right spot to bang the puck into the net.
Nicklas Lidstrom ended his 14-game goal drought with a shorthanded goal late in the third. The Red Wings escaped their zone on a three-on-three rush. Zetterberg carried the puck deep into Chicago territory, then passed it back to Lidstrom at the blue line. Lidstrom used a Blackhawk defender as a screen and rifled away a shot which went right through Passmore.
The Blackhawks, to their credit, did not give up, even though they were down by two goals with 6:06 left to play, and even though their comeback chances dwindled further when Ville Nieminen took a roughing penalty with 2:29 left. They pulled Passmore to send in an extra skater. Burke Henry gave the Blackhawks another goal with just 10.7 seconds left to play, but the Red Wings won the faceoff at center ice and didn't give Chicago a chance to tie the game.
Chicago wound up outshooting Detroit by a count of 30 to 25. The Red Wings continue their string of games against Central Division rivals with a short road trip to face the Nashville Predators on Saturday night, then back home to host the St. Louis Blues on Monday.
Notes: The Blackhawks dropped to 1-12-3-3 in their last 19 games with starting goalie Jocelyn Thibault out of the lineup.... This was Detroit's 8th straight home win.... Kris Draper took a high stick to the face early in the third period and had to leave the game to get stitches, but he returned before the game was over.