Neither the Detroit Red Wings nor the Chicago Blackhawks needed a win in Saturday afternoon’s matchup between the Original Six rivals but only the Blackhawks played like it, as the Red Wings rolled to a 7-2 win to clost out their regular season schedule.
A shootout loss by the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night assured the Red Wings that they had clinched the Western Conference’s regular season championship but that didn’t stop them from jumping out to an early lead and staying in control for the rest of the game.
Danny Markov got the Red Wings on the board just 4:31 into the game with a shot from the point that deflected off of a Blackhawk defender, hit the back boards, came out in front of the net, bounced off the skate of goalie Patrick Lalime, and went into the net.
It was 1:03 later that Detroit got a goal that did not require a series of lucky bounces, when Mikael Samuelsson scored the first of two on the afternoon with a quick shot from the right faceoff dot past Lalime.
Kyle Calder added a power play goal with 8:30 remaining in the period, deflecting a blast by Samuelsson.
Detroit kept the pressure on in the second, scoring at 3:51 when Tomas Holmstrom slipped a shot from the slot under Lalime.
Calder notched his second of the day against his former team 1:36 later. After a Blackhawk giveaway in their own zone, Robert Lang sent the puck up to Samuelsson, who threaded a pass back down low to Calder alone in front of the net to roof a shot over Lalime.
Samuelsson added his second with 7:30 remaining in the middle period with the Red Wings on a power play, seconds after the expiration of a four-on-three, when his wrister from the top of the right circle got past Lalime with Dan Cleary screening him.
Radim Vrbata got Chicago on the board with 1:46 remaining in the second but Kyle Quincey’s first career goal put the Red Wings back up by six just 12 seconds later.
Nikolai Khabibulin replaced Lalime to start the third period and did not allow a goal.
Jeff Hamilton closed out the game’s scoring at 7:37 of the final period when his wrister from the top of the right circle deflected off of Markov and past Detroit netminder Chris Osgood.
Osgood finished the game with 19 saves on 21 shots against, the first of which didn’t come until the Red Wings already had a three-goal lead. Khabibulin stopped all 15 shots he faced in the third while Lalime made 17 stops on 24 shots in the first two periods.
Detroit scored twice on eleven power play chances. Chicago was held off the board on their four tries with the extra skater.
The Red Wings now await to find out whether their first round playoff opponent will be the Calgary Flames or the Colorado Avalanche. The two teams meet on Sunday in what would be a de facto playoff if the Flames lose to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night and the Avalanche defeat the Nashville Predators.
Whichever team Detroit faces, general manager Ken Holland expects the series to begin on Thursday or Friday night, with game two to be held on Sunday afternoon.
The Red Wings were prevented from claiming a third-straight Presidents’ Trophy by the Buffalo Sabres’ win over the Washington Capitals, clinching Buffalo’s first regular season championship.