CHICAGO – Corey Crawford and the Chicago Blackhawks did just fine without captain Jonathan Toews on Tuesday night.
The Detroit Red Wings had a much more difficult time without their star centre.
Crawford made 31 saves and the Blackhawks beat the Red Wings 2-1 in a matchup of depleted Central Division rivals.
“Corey was rock solid,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “He was big, strong, controlled rebounds. They put a lot of bodies in traffic at the net. They test you on almost every shift. I thought he was excellent.”
Jimmy Hayes scored the tying goal in the second period and set up Marcus Kruger’s winning score in the third as Chicago earned its fourth consecutive victory since a nine-game losing streak.
“We stayed patient all game,” Kruger said. “Even down one goal, we stuck with our plan and found a way to win.”
Valtteri Filppula scored for NHL-leading Detroit, which had won six in a row. Jimmy Howard had 27 stops in his first action since being sidelined for two-plus weeks with a broken right index finger.
“I thought we played about 10 good minutes to start the game and then I thought we were careless with the puck and made poor mental decisions,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I didn’t think we gave ourself much of chance.”
While Howard was back in the net for the first time since Feb. 2 at Vancouver, the Red Wings were without leading scorer Pavel Datsyuk. The dynamic centre had arthroscopic surgery Tuesday to remove fragments from his right knee and is expected to be sidelined for two weeks.
Datsyuk leads the Red Wings with 43 assists and 59 points, playing a key role in Detroit’s record 23-game home winning streak. The Red Wings host Vancouver on Thursday.
“Pav’s been out before and he’s a huge part of our team but we’re going to need guys to step up,” Howard said. “This is an opportunity for other guys now to play in a role maybe they’re not used to playing in, maybe getting some more ice time, and they’re going to find a way to get it done for us.”
Chicago was missing Toews, who was scratched with an upper-body injury and is day to day.
“In 82 games, you’re going to play without some players on any given night,” forward Patrick Sharp said. “Losing him was big, but we rallied around each other and all stepped up.”
Hayes skated behind the Detroit net early in the third and threw it in front, where Kruger slammed in his own rebound to give the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead just 1:53 into the period.
Crawford and the Blackhawks’ defence took it from there, tying up Detroit and preventing any great chances to tie it up in the waning moments.
“The second half of the third, I don’t remember them having any chances,” Crawford said. “We played solid, everyone was coming back hard.”
The Blackhawks evened the season series at two games apiece while improving to 7-1 in their last eight home games.
The Blackhawks got off to a slow start without their captain and the Red Wings took advantage. Kruger was sent off for tripping just 34 seconds into the game and Filppula sent a wrister over Crawford’s right leg to give Detroit a 1-0 lead at 2:22.
Chicago turned up the pressure late in the opening period and carried it over to the second, forcing Howard to make a handful of outstanding stops. Patrick Kane made a perfect pass to Sharp in the mouth of the Detroit goal, but Howard got over to kick it away. Michael Frolik skated in on a breakaway after Ian White fell down in the second and Howard kicked that one away, too.
Chicago finally broke through at 7:45 of the second when Duncan Keith’s shot from the left point squirted through to White, who pushed it into the wide-open net for his fifth goal of the season.
Detroit could have a different defensive look when it takes the ice against the Canucks.
The Red Wings acquired Kyle Quincey on Tuesday in a three-team deal that also involved Tampa Bay and Colorado. The Lightning traded forward Steve Downie to the Avalanche for Quincey, who was shipped to the Red Wings for a first-round draft pick and minor league defenceman Sebastien Piche.
Quincey was drafted by Detroit in 2003, and played a role as the Red Wings reached the Western Conference finals in 2007.
“We’re thrilled to have him back,” Babcock said. “Obviously, we think the deeper you are in the back and the better you move the puck the better chance you have to be successful.”
NOTES: Red Wings F Dan Cleary was activated from injured reserve and played against the Blackhawks. He missed the previous five games with a lower body injury. … Chicago swapped minor league forwards with Tampa Bay, sending Brandon Segal to the Lightning for Matt Fornataro. … Red Wings G Ty Conklin cleared waivers and was assigned to Grand Rapids of the AHL. … Blackhawks D Niklas Hjalmarsson missed his seventh straight game with an upper-body injury.