The Detroit Red Wings fell in a shootout to the Chicago Blackhawks Thursday night but the point they earned was enough to clinch their sixth-straight Central Division Championship.
The Red Wings moved to three points ahead of the Nashville Predators, who can earn only two points with one game remaining. Detroit also moved to four points ahead of the Anaheim Ducks in the race for the Western Conference Championship. With two games remaining for Anaheim, they can still pull even with the Red Wings.
Detroit threw a season-high 58 shots at Chicago goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, who made a career-best 56 saves on the night. At the other end of the ice, Chris Osgood saw only 21 shots, stopping 19.
Patrick Sharp won the game for Chicago in the fourth round of the shootout. Sharp went high to Osgood’s glove side with a shot that went off of the goaltender’s arm and into the top of the net.
Chicago had taken an early lead when Nikita Alexeev scored on a blast from the top of the left circle. That goal, scored just 5:03 into the first, also came on a shot that Osgood caught a piece of.
Blackhawks’ rookie Bryan Bickell put his team out in front by two at 3:04 of the second, tipping a shot from the top of the right circle by Jonas Nordqvist past Osgood.
The Red Wings began their comeback with 40 seconds remaining in the middle frame. After a chance in front by Johan Franzen, the puck came to the corner. Pavel Datsyuk picked it up and threw it back into the slot, where Tomas Holmstrom outwaited Khabibulin and lifted a shot over him.
At 9:36 of the third, former Blackhawk Kyle Calder tied the game on a Detroit power play. Khabibulin made the stop on Calder’s initial chance from the top of the crease but Calder pushed at the Chicago netminder, shoving the puck into the net.
That was the game’s only power play goal. It came on the last of Detroit’s three chances with the extra attacker. Chicago had only one power play opportunity.
The Red Wings will have the chance to lock up their final playoff seed on Saturday when they host the Blackhawks in both teams’ final game of the season. If the Anaheim does not win on Friday night, the Red Wings will need one point in Saturday’s game to clinch the conference title.
Nicklas Lidstrom sat out the game with to continue resting his back sprain. Mathieu Schneider was back in the lineup to take his place… Todd Bertuzzi left the game as a precautionary measure after the first period, during which he collided with Osgood. He did take shifts after the collision and was described as having a sprained neck.